Scotland’s exam results: Why we think our grades were unfair

When Luke Robertson, 16, from Motherwell opened his exams results on Tuesday, the scramble of letters on the page wasn't what he had hoped for.

"It just doesn't make sense to me," Luke said. "I got a B in my physics prelim but the SQA gave me a C. I feel annoyed with them".

He had been predicted to achieve mostly As by his teachers and had been assured by them that his final grades would not be lower than his prelim performance.

But like many pupils across Scotland, Luke said he was "disappointed and shocked" by the surprise grades and now felt uncertain about the future.

His father, Alex Robertson, said Luke's school had promised his son's grades would not suffer because his exams were cancelled due to the pandemic.

However, Mr Robertson feels they have – and he's worried about going forward with the appeal process too.

Luke had planned to go to university to study pharmacy or pharmacology but is now unsure about his next move.

"I don't know what I'm doing to do now. The school said they're going to try and appeal," he said.

"It's not just me. It's a lot of my friends too. I feel for everyone".

Many students believe they were penalised during the moderation process because their schools have historically not performed as well as others.

One pupil from East Kilbride, Lauren Steele, 16, has written an open letter to education secretary John Swinney criticising how grades were calculated.

She had been predicted to get a B in French by her teachers but was awarded a C by the SQA and said for some pupils "their hard work was being ignored".

Lauren said she sent the letter on behalf of the thousands of pupils who received exams results that were lower than they had anticipated.

She argued it should have been teachers who had the final say when it came to grades rather than them being modified by the SQA.

"These teachers have known me since I walked into that school at 11 years old and have monitored my work and progress all year long so in my opinion are the most qualified to predict results – not strangers in an office who know my name and postcode," Lauren said.

"Many students, including myself, have woke up this morning to sheer disappointment and grades far lower than their potential.

"We didn't receive the results we both need and deserve to take our education onto the next level at colleges and university".

'It's classism'

Kelly Wan, 17, from Eyemouth was predicted to get all As from the start of the year. She hoped to study medicine at university and said she needed all A grades to get there.

She achieved those results in her prelim exams and was told by teachers she would not go lower than her prelim grades.

However, Tuesday brought just two As out of five and although she said those results were "still amazing", they weren't what she needed to study medicine at university.

Kelly called it "classism" and said she would appeal her grades. Her teachers have reassured her that she has enough coursework evidence to do so but she said it was still disappointing.

"It's just disheartening and it means pupils lose trust in the system they're in," Kelly said.

"Everyone I've spoken to at my school is appealing their grades. That's how bad it is.

"It's classism and it's a feeling shared by a lot of us. Why should the hard work of kids living in deprived areas be undermined because of the fact the government doesn't support them as much?"

What do the SQA and the Scottish government say?

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