EXAM bosses have been accused of treating teachers’ “professional judgement with contempt” after thousands of pupils have seen grades shifted from original estimates based on how good their school has previously performed.

This year’s exams diet was cancelled for the first time in history due to the Covid-19 pandemic – with grades instead based on teacher estimates. But almost 124,000 entries have been adjusted down as the SQA ensures grades are kept within "the tolerable range for that grade at the centre".

Education Secretary John Swinney said that “133,000 entries were adjusted from the initial estimate” - around a quarter of all entries.

He added: “6.9 per cent of those estimates were adjusted up and 93.1 per cent were adjusted down, with 96 per cent of all adjusted grades changed by one grade."

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Labour believes that the SQA must now be braced for a flurry of appeals from students who have had their original estimated grades from their teachers downgraded.

The party’s education spokesperson, Iain Gray, said: “Too many have seen their results lowered, often with passes turned into fails, damaging their prospects for university or college.

“Worst of all, the SQA have done this on the basis of each school’s past performance, marking the school not the pupil, and baking in the attainment gap. They were told that this would be grossly unfair and it is. The SQA have also treated teachers’ professional judgement with contempt.”

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He added: “The SQA will now be deluged with appeals – I hope they are ready to deal with them properly.

“The Education Secretary was repeatedly warned about all this, but, as usual, has chosen to sit back and watch it happen with our young people paying the price.”

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The SQA’s methodology for moderating the teacher-estimated grades, which has only been made public today, stresses that the grades were “assessed against that centre’s historical attainment for that grade on that course” - as well as ensuring “the national attainment level for each grade for that course matched historical attainment levels”.

It adds: “All estimates from all centres were, in principle, subject to moderation. This sought to assess whether the centre’s estimated proportional attainment for each grade was broadly consistent with its historic attainment on that grade over the last four years — with additional allowances for variability.

"Where the assessment showed that a centre’s 2020 estimated attainment on a grade was outside the tolerable range for that grade at the centre, the centre’s estimates for that course were adjusted."

Conservative education spokesperson, Jamie Greene, added: "The revelations that many of the 133,000 pupils who had their grades adjusted will now find themselves worse off and some will now receive either a grade D or No Award because of this unfair moderation process.

“There are questions to be asked about the whether it was appropriate to put such an emphasis on consistency on an untested system during an extraordinary event.

“The fact is teachers are far better placed than an SQA moderator to give an accurate estimation of the grade their pupils deserve based on ability and merit and the Scottish Government should have trusted their estimates at face value."

Mr Swinney said that without moderation, pass rates at grades A-C, compared to last year would have increased by 10.4 per cent for National 5, 14 per cent for Highers and 13.4 per cent for Advanced Highers.

He added: “I know teachers and lecturers will always want the best for their pupils but I believe that teachers have acted professionally.

“I know that learners who did not achieve what they were expecting will be disappointed, however the SQA will be operating a free appeals process this year. The appeals process is an integral part of awarding this year and will play an important role in giving schools and colleges the opportunity to present evidence in support of teacher and lecturer estimates.

“The SQA has ensured that sufficient resources are in place to support this process and priority will be given to learners who need their grades to meet a conditional university or college offer.

“This year has been exceptionally challenging but these robust processes mean we have upheld standards so that all learners can hold their heads up and move onto the next phase in their life, whether that be further study, employment or training.”

The SQA’s chief executive, Fiona Robertson, said that the exams body has “delivered fairness to learners” and “maintained the integrity and credibility of our qualifications system, ensuring that standards are maintained over time”.

She added: “Everyone receiving their results today can have confidence that their achievements and hard work have been rewarded.

“I would like to thank the thousands of teachers and lecturers, SQA co-ordinators, school and college staff, local authorities, professional associations and national organisations, who have worked together to provide us with their candidates’ estimated grades, without which we would not be able to issue certificates today.

“I would also like to acknowledge my sincere appreciation to all SQA staff and appointees who have worked very hard to deliver.”