Thousands more exam appeals after Higher Maths row

The number of Scots pupils who have complained about their exam results has jumped by more 3,500 this year following widespread public concerns about the new Maths Higher paper.

More than 12,000 school pupils asked for a review of their results. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The 43% rise was branded “extraordinary” by opposition leaders who say the country’s exams system is now in chaos.

More than 12,000 yongsters asked for a review of their results in 2015 compared with 8,448 last year, official figures published by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) today showed. This resulted in 2,378 papers being upgraded, a rise of 205 on last year.

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Exam chiefs say the expected the numbers to go up after the introduction of a new system of appeals last year.

But Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “These extraordinary figures show just how chaotic the new exams system in Scotland really is. SNP Ministers and the SQA can’t bury their heads in the sand any longer. The excuses we have heard previously from the SQA that they did their job just aren’t good enough.

“We’ve known all along that the new Higher Maths exam was far too hard, with pupils leaving in tears. Parents and pupils from across Scotland have contacted me about the exams fiasco and they want credible assurances that the same mistakes won’t be repeated next year.”

A spokesman for the SQA insisted the rise in appeals was not a surprise.

“We had always anticipated an increased number of requests in the second year of the new system as schools and colleges have become more familiar with the service,” he added.

The New Higher, which was introduced last year and attracted widespread concerns, resulted in the highest number of overall appeals with 3944 pupils demanding a review. There 350 appeals over the new Higher maths exams after complaints that the paper was too difficult, with much of the subject matter not covered in class.

Tory education spokesowman said: “It will come as no surprise that the number of requests for marking reviews has risen in light of the circumstances which surrounded the new maths higher and the resulting concerns that some parents and pupils had about the post exam analysis in some other subjects.

“SQA officials acknowledged at Holyrood’s Education Committee that there had been problems with the new maths higher and that they had received a significant numbers of complaints. This situation was bound to increase the number of appeals.”

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur MSP added: “Marking of exam papers needs to be consistent across the country so pupils know they are being treated equally and fairly. The increase in requests for review of results and the number of changes that have been granted is therefore worrying.”

In 2015, a total of more than 1.1 million scripts for more than 142,000 candidates were marked by almost 6,000 markers.

Dr Janet Brown, SQA Chief Executive, said: “At the heart of all our activities is a commitment to the highest possible standards in Scottish qualifications.

“As part of that commitment, we have put systems in place to ensure that our approach to assessing qualifications is high-quality, rigorous and fair for all candidates. Post Results Services were designed in partnership and consultation with representatives from across Scotland’s education system.”

“We constantly review our procedures to enhance and improve them with the aim of ensuring the best possible outcomes for candidates.”