COVID-19 affected Scottish exam results have clear anti-working class bias

Secondary school pupils across Scotland have been receiving their exam results today (4 August 2020) in exceptional circumstances, with exams being cancelled for the first time in history due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Methodology documents and statistics released by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) explaining how results were awarded have led to widespread criticism. They indicate pupils from working class and deprived areas and historically under-performing schools faced a built-in bias resulting in their grades being adjusted downward disproportionately compared with pupils from private schools and affluent areas.

Around 138,000 young Scots will receive their results today either by email or text or through the posts. The SQA have reported that overall pass rates improved despite the fact that the national exams body moderators had lowered the grades of around 1 in 4 of all results released today.

As no exams could be held this year due to pandemic conditions, all grades were based on estimates made by teachers based on a pupil’s performance throughout the school year. These estimates were adjusted by SQA moderators to ensure “fairness to all learners” and that “standards and credibility” were maintained.

The SQA’s 2020 Methodology Report revealed that, “Fundamentally, moderation was undertaken at centre level, where a centre’s 2020 estimated attainment level for each grade on a course was assessed against that centre’s historical attainment for that grade on that course.”

Many have pointed to the fact that this has the effect of compounding historic under-performing at schools in deprived and working class areas, regardless of the efforts of institutions to improve and individual pupils to attain the best marks possible.

This result was confirmed in the SQA’s own statistics. The Equality Impact Assessment which accompanied the results confirmed that for the poorest pupils their Higher pass rate was reduced by 15.2% by moderators from the teacher’s estimate. Whereas for pupils from the wealthiest backgrounds the equivalent rate of reduction was just 6.9%.

The YCL’s National Student Officer and Executive Committee Member, Peter Stoddart, commented, “Exams have been failing working class students in Scotland for decades. While the new Curriculum for Excellence was supposed to offer greater support than the previous system, it has ultimately failed and inequality has persisted.”

He continued, “Instead of seeking to address this problem. The SNP administration have instead decided to gerrymander today’s results. As usual, working class Scots are made to pay the price.”

John Swinney must resign in the face of this scandal. Working class pupils across Scotland affected by this anti-working class bias should mobilise along with their classmates to ensure they and every other pupil across Scotland gets the grade they deserve – not the one the system thinks they are due,” he concluded.

Challenge News Desk

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