MPs asked the head of the Scottish Exams Service, which is at the core of a grades debacle, for answers and called on the company to “improve its communication with learners and restore confidence in the qualifications system.”
After the Scottish government made an about-face after thousands of grades respected by teachers were downgraded by moderation, with those from less wealthy schools hit harder, the SQA’s chief executive, Fiona Robertson, appeared before the Scottish House of Commons education committee.
The change of heart of the Scottish government resulted in qualifications being reset to the initial estimates of teachers.
Ms. Robertson emphasized during her hearing that SQA had done all it could to carry out the orders of the Scottish government – and pointed to reports that less than half of the teacher estimates of last year were correct, leading the agency to consider moderation.
But the chairwoman of the education committee, Clare Adamson, wrote to Ms. Robertson expressing concerns that individual students are still unable to contest their outcomes, and that appeals are not approved for “extenuating circumstances,” such as family sickness or deprivation, or that there was a mistake in the estimates of teachers.
Appeals that must be lodged by schools rather than individual students can be filed when there has been an administrative mistake in the preparation of teacher estimates, as well as on any occasion when discrimination has influenced a grade estimate – which comes to light through an internal evaluation process of a center.
Schools may also send an appeal to the SQA if the head of the center feels there has been an error within the internal procedures of the SQA to validate results since the U-turn of the Scottish government.
The SQA leader defends the outcome of the exam and does not apologize for the debacle.
Ms. Adamson notes in her letter that the appeals this year are of “urgent interest” to both MPs and students, and emphasizes that it is “essential that this new process is properly and effectively communicated” in order to avoid “adding to the challenges that students already face.”
Ms. Adamson questioned Ms. Robertson why the SQA prohibited individual students from appealing and “why there is no avenue for appeals based on extenuating circumstances” or whether there was an inaccurate estimation of a teacher.
She added, “It is clear from your statements that the process of appeals was a key element in this year’s SQA plans, and you told us that SQA was “prepared this year for a higher volume of appeals.
Why was this not made clearer in advance to teachers, parents and colleges, and what thought did SQA give to how similar situations in future years could be more clearly communicated?
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“Looking ahead, we believe SQA needs to improve its communication with learners and rebuild trust in the credentialing system, and we expect SQA to reflect on these observations.”
On these findings, we expect SQA to reflect.” Ms. Robertson was asked to provide details on what SQA will do to “rebuild trust with teachers, parents and students” and whether an internal review will be conducted.”
“is narrowly focused on SQA’s own proposals, with no discussion of other options, and that the consultation on contingency models for the timing of the diet is not open to all.”is strictly focused on SQA’s own proposals, without any discussion of other options, and that the consultation on contingency models for diet timing is not open to all.
She added: “While we all hope that the exam diet can be delivered in the usual way next year, we recognize that this may not be possible and therefore have a number of initial queries about the exam diet next year.”
A number of questions about next year’s examinations were asked to Ms. Robertson, including “what contingency models have been proposed” and if there are arrangements “to support certification if there is significant disruption” because a closure is enforced.
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