Coronavirus: Thousands of pupils have results upgraded after U-turn by Scottish government

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

Tens of thousands of pupils will have their exam results upgraded after a U-turn by the Scottish government.

The Scottish Government had been criticised by students and parents after results showed those from the most deprived backgrounds had their Higher pass rates reduced by 15.2%, compared with just 6.9% in the most affluent parts of the country.

Pupils in Scotland could not sit their exams this year due to the coronavirus outbreak and had been given grades using a controversial system of moderation. Following outcry from pupils, students will now receive the predicted grades given to them by their teachers.

Scotland's Education Secretary John Swinney said 124,564 exam results had downgraded by the moderation system and around 75,000 pupils would receive upgraded results.

He apologised to pupils and admitted "we did not get it right for all young people."

Mr Swinney said: “We set out to ensure that the system was fair. We set out to ensure it was credible. "

He added: “In speaking directly to the young people affected by the downgrading of awards – the 75,000 pupils whose teacher estimates were higher than their final award – I want to say this: I am sorry.”

John Swinney apologised to pupils as he announced the results U-turn. Credit: PA

As a result of the changes announced by Mr Swinney, the new Higher pass rate for 2020 is 89.2%, 14.4% higher than the previous year.

The National 5 pass rate has also increased by 10.7% to 88.9%, as well as the Advanced Higher pass rate rising to 93.1% – a rise of 13.7%.

Final headline results would be published on August 21 and no grades which were moderated up will be reduced. Changes to the appeals process will be published later this week.

A “rapid consultation exercise” with teachers is due to start this week, looking at removing parts of course assessment and adjusting the volume of evidence required in coursework.

He also announced a full independent review chaired by Professor Mark Priestly of Stirling University to look into the circumstances of this year’s awards, including the approach taken to estimate pupils’ grades, the impact the process had on young people and their families and the transparency of the process. An initial report is expected within five weeks.

Erin Bleakley, 17, who organised a protest of around 100 students in Glasgow’s George Square against how the exam results were reached, said: “I think we would all like to say a generous thank you for not only the apology but the results being reverted back to teacher estimates.

Pupils had taken to the streets of Glasgow after their results had been downgraded using a controversial moderation system. Credit: PA

“I did not think this day would come.”

Mr Swinney has faced called to resign by former Scottish Conservative leaders Ruth Davidson and Jackson Carlaw, and Labour leader Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.

Ms Davidson tweeted: “A total U-turn on the position Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney had doubled down on for days. Welcome relief for pupils who’ve been put through the wringer. But be in no doubt, this is a shambles & an honourable man would have offered his resignation.”

And Mr Carlaw posted: “U-turn on the Education Bill. U-turn on Curriculum Choice. U-turn on Blended Learning. U-turn on Shambolic SQA results. John Swinney has presided over a shambles in Scottish Education, over several years. He must resign.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard tweeted: “The no confidence motion in @JohnSwinney has forced a massive #SQAResultsFiasco U-turn. But Swinney has lost all credibility and isn’t the one to fix this.

“At 5pm @ScotParl bureau will propose that motion is heard on Thursday. Blocking motion from debate would be anti-democratic.”