Thousands of Scottish students have exam results upgraded

Date: 20th August 2020
Category: Education, including vocational education

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The Deputy First Minister’s announcement on 11th August 2020 followed protests by young people at the downgrading of results by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) - affecting almost  76,000 pupils. Protests highlighted the disproportionate impact on young people attending schools in areas of deprivation. John Swinney’s announcement sought to resolve the issue by reinstating teachers’ estimated grades.

John Swinney’s announcement clarified that:

  • All downgraded results will be withdrawn.
  • SQA will issue fresh certificates reflecting teachers’ estimates as soon as possible and inform UCAS of the new grades.
  • Scottish Government will ensure sufficient places in universities and colleges so that no one is “crowded out” of a place they would otherwise have been awarded.
  • A new appeals process will be introduced for some exceptional circumstances.
  • An independent review of the process will be led by Professor Mark Priestley from Stirling University.

As a result of these changes, this year's Higher pass rate will now sit at 89.2%, up 14.4 percentage points from 2019, while the Advanced Higher pass rate is at 93.1%, up 13.7 points from the previous year.

The decision meets many of the calls made by SQA: Where's Our Say?, a youth-led campaign, which sought to hold to SQA to account for the unfair grade allocation. The campaign continues to call for an inclusive and direct appeals process, while awaiting Scottish Government’s introduction of the amended system.

  • Read John Swinney’s announcement in full here.