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Worries grow for Northern Ireland pupils as Sturgeon vows to rectify downgrading of results in Scotland


First Minister: Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister: Nicola Sturgeon


First Minister: Nicola Sturgeon

An apology from Nicola Sturgeon to pupils in Scotland who had their recent exam results downgraded will be cause for concern for pupils in Northern Ireland, an MLA has said.

The Scottish First Minister said yesterday too much focus had been given to the results system rather than individuals and apologised to those affected, seeming to acknowledge those in more deprived areas were hardest hit.

She said her Education Secretary John Swinney will set out a plan to rectify the matter at the Scottish Parliament today.

Ms Sturgeon said that "too many have lost out on grades that they think they should have had ... as a result, not of anything they've done, but because of a statistical model or an algorithm, and in addition that burden has not fallen equally across our society.

"Despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge we did not get this right and I'm sorry for that. The most immediate challenge is to resolve the grades awarded to pupils this year."

With no exams this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) applied a methodology whereby grades estimated by teachers were downgraded based on criteria including the historic performance of the school.

Ms Sturgeon also said she is "not prepared" to have young people feel that "no matter how hard they work at school, no matter how seriously they take education, the system is stacked against them".

Pass rates for pupils in the most deprived data zones were reduced by 15.2% in comparison with 6.9% for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds.

A similar system is in operation in Northern Ireland.

Ulster Unionist Robbie Butler said: "The apology from Nicola Sturgeon over how A-level exams have been handled in Scotland will be a further cause of concern for those pupils still awaiting their results in Northern Ireland.

"The fear and exam result-related anxiety that exists amongst students - particularly those from working class backgrounds - is palpable and they need to know that their concerns are being addressed before Thursday.

"This would already be an incredibly stressful time for many young people awaiting results, and that is now being compounded by the concern that their grade may be affected by elements beyond their control.

"The standardising of centre and cohort marks awarded was raised as a concern at Education Committee previously, most notably due to there being no appeal mechanism to challenge this aspect, and given the failure to protect students from a working class background in Scotland it is vital that CCEA have got this right. This is a section of our society who are eagerly waiting to take the next step in their life, they cannot be let down."

Belfast Telegraph