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Statement on Tuesday

Swinney issues pledge to fix school grades fiasco

John Swinney delivers Budget

John Swinney: ‘I have heard the anger’

Scotland’s Education Secretary John Swinney is to announce on Tuesday how he will address the furious backlash over grade moderation for school pupils.

Grades predicted by teachers for exams cancelled because of the coronavirus were moderated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) using the past performance of schools.

This saw those in the most deprived zones being downgraded by 15.2% compared with just 6.9% in the wealthiest areas.

Pupils, parents, teachers and opposition politicians have been united in condemning the process. Some pupils staged a demonstration on Friday amid calls for a rethink.

In a statement on Sunday, Mr Swinney said: “I have heard the anger of students who feel their hard work has been taken away from them and I am determined to address it.

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“These are unprecedented times and as we have said throughout this pandemic, we will not get everything right first time. 

“Every student deserves a grade that reflects the work they have done, and that is what I want to achieve.

“I have been engaged in detailed discussions over the way forward and I know that we need to act and act quickly to give certainty to our young people.

“I will set out on Tuesday how we intend to achieve that.”

Mr Swinney has faced a possible vote of no confidence over reaction to the downgrading of pupils’ performance.

Pressure on Mr Swinney also came from within the SNP’s own ranks as former minister Alex Neil said the SNP “must reverse the decisions it made about examination results that saw the poorest children in many of the most deprived areas downgraded on the altar of a manufactured algorithm prepared in secret.”

Ex-First Minister Jack McConnell called on Mr Swinney to quit if he is unable to fix the problem within a week.

This is no way to run an education system

– Iain Gray, Labour

Responding to Mr Swinney’s statement, Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson, Iain Gray, said: “It’s taken John Swinney five days to even admit this fiasco is his responsibility.

“The threat of a no confidence motion has seen him finally accept the fact that he got this badly wrong. 

“This is no way to run an education system. Young people will have been left twisting in the wind for a week by the time he explains what action will be taken. He needs to go.”

UPDATE 10 August: Labour tables no confidence vote

Scottish Labour has tabled a motion of no confidence in Education Secretary John Swinney and is seeking the support of parliamentarians of all parties.

Scottish Labour education spokesperson Iain Gray said: “John Swinney has presided over the greatest scandal in education in Scotland for decades and for five days refused to acknowledge any failure. This is unacceptable.

“Scottish Labour has today formally submitted a motion of no confidence in John Swinney and is actively seeking the support of parliamentarians.

“John Swinney has made it clear that he has no confidence in the teachers or pupils of Scotland. It is now Scottish Labour’s task to inform the Education Secretary that the people of Scotland have no confidence in him.”

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