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Exam results day: SQA awards ‘worse than postcode lottery’ for pupils in deprived areas

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Awards of results for school pupils whose exams were cancelled has been branded worse than a postcode lottery.

A greater proportion of youngsters from schools in deprived areas who were expected to be awarded Higher, Advanced Higher and National 5 qualifications in fact failed.

Scottish Qualifications Authority moderators adjusted around a quarter of the estimated grades teachers submitted for pupils across Scotland, and individual schools’ past performance influenced the results.

There was a 15% gap between the actual and estimated pass rate for children in the most deprived areas, compared to 7% for those in the least deprived areas.

A Fife councillor contacted by a number of distraught parents described the results as a postcode lottery but a Dundee councillor said it was worse than that.

Lochee Labour councillor Michael Marra said: “It wasn’t even a lottery.

Councillor Michael Marra.

“The results were set in stone and no luck nor hard work could change them.

“Considering Dundee results remain among the worst in Scotland, schools here will be more impacted than elsewhere.

The results were set in stone and no luck nor hard work could change them.”

Dundee councillor Michael Marra

“For a bright, hardworking kid in a challenging school the Scottish Government put in place a system that means their work counts for nothing.”

He also questioned whether the system put in place to determine results after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions was legal under the Equalities Act and called for a judicial review.

Seven schools in Dundee have at least 30% of pupils from deprived areas. These are Craigie High School, St Paul’s RC Academy, Baldragon Academy, Braeview Academy, Morgan Academy, St John’s RC High School and Harris Academy.

Other schools in the same category are Arbroath Academy, and in Fife, Levenmouth Academy, Viewforth High School, Glenwood High School, Lochgelly High School, St Andrew’s RC High School and Kirkcaldy High School.

Although overall pass rates have risen this year, leavers devastated by downgraded results, many of them dependent on grades for university places, have already requested appeals.

Results were ‘kick in the teeth’, says Fife mum

Several pupils at Levenmouth Academy were said to be among the thousands affected.

Levenmouth Academy, Buckhaven.

Mum Nicola Ritchie, of Buckhaven, said it was a “kick in the teeth” for her daughter Morgan-Leigh, 17, to get two Ds among her Higher results when she anticipated Bs and Cs.

She said: “Morgan-Leigh has worked so hard, sometimes she’s been in the school to 7pm studying.

“It’s no one’s fault this pandemic has happened but this year she has had to stop her driving lessons, she was working at McDonalds and that stopped. Her prom was cancelled and now this.”

Hundreds of kids were depending on these grades to get a place.”

Parent, Nicola Ritchie

Morgan-Leigh already has a place at Fife College to study acting and performance and is to go to the University of the West of Scotland next year.

Nicola said: “We are lucky Morgan-Leigh has a place but hundreds of kids were depending on these grades to get a place.”

Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss villages Labour councillor Ryan Smart claimed pupils at Levenmouth Academy and others like it would have suffered disproportionately compared to those at schools in more affluent areas.

Councillor Ryan Smart.

He said teachers at the school confirmed grades were lower than their recommendations.

He said: “One girl who expected to get all Bs has failed everything. Her mother was nearly in tears on the phone to me.

“Another girl who expected to get an A and a B got Ds.

“To my knowledge, no examiner has been near Levenmouth Academy to look at coursework.

This is tragic for kids in areas of multiple deprivation, where their results are a lifeline to having a better life.”

Councillor Ryan Smart

“It’s been based on a postcode lottery.

“Kids that go to SIMD (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) area schools will be disproportionately affected.

“This is tragic for kids in areas of multiple deprivation, where their results are a lifeline to having a better life.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted the awards were fair and were moderated to ensure credible figures.

Thousands of grades modified to ensure ‘credible’ exam result figures, Nicola Sturgeon says

The SQA is providing a free appeals service this year.

A spokesman said: “That means schools and colleges that have questions about a candidate’s final grade can appeal the result, if it is lower than what they estimated.

“They need to have permission from the candidate and sufficient evidence to support the initial estimate.

“Following an appeal, final grades can be increased, they can be lowered, or they can remain the same.

“The SQA’s appeals service opened on August 4.

“Priority will be given to those candidates wishing to confirm a college or university place.

“If learners have any questions about their results they should speak to their school, college or training provider first.”

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