A SENIOR SNP politician has urged ministers to let this year’s school exam estimates stand uncorrected despite Nicola Sturgeon calling them “not credible”.

Chris McEleny said SNP colleagues needed to force Scotland’s exam body “to do the right thing”, after it downgraded down 125,000 estimated results.

Mr McEleny, the leader of the SNP group in Inverclyde and a challenger for the SNP’s Holyrood candidacy in the area, said all the changes should now be reversed.

It coincided with Scottish Labour demanding John Swinney launch an “urgent review” into the changes, which have been strongly defended by the education secretary since they were announced on Tuesday.

Ms Sturgeon has also defended the ‘moderation’ process used by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to cut grades which had to be based on teacher estimates because of coronavirus.

The SQA said their had been a significant over-estimation of grades, and the First Minister said this led to the national pass marks being “not credible”.

Schools can now appeal pupil grades free of charge if they think they were unfair.

Mr McEleny said how the estimated results “would look” should never have been a factor.

Other SNP politicians have also criticised the grades to emerge from the SQA process.

David McDonald, the deputy leader of SNP-run Glasgow City Council, yesterday told pupils: “I'm sorry the system has let you down” and wished pupils good luck with their appeals. 

Paisley SNP MP Mhairi Black also said she was “deeply concerned” by the moderation process, as “students from deprived areas saw their results reduced from their predicted grades at a higher rate than those who come from wealthier areas".

Last year, the national attainment rates at A to C for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher were 78.2 per cent, 74.8% and 79.4% respectively.

But when teachers estimated the grades for their pupils after exams were cancelled because of the lockdown, the rates jumped by 10.4, 14 and 13.4 per centage points respectively.

The SQA then looked at past year’s data, including individual school data, to reduce the pass rates to what it considered more realistic levels - 81.1%, 78.9% and 84.9% respectively.

As the overestimation was greatest in schools in deprived areas, the subsequent reductions were also greatest for those schools, leading to claims poor pupils were being treated unfairly and marked down because of their school’s track record, not their own efforts. 

Mr McEleny, whose council areas includes the most deprived part of Scotland, said the Scottish Government must “instruct the SQA to overturn its controversial decision”.

He said “the unprecedented situation merited more support for children from deprived backgrounds”. 

He said: “The reality is that it is up to SNP politicians to force the SQA to do the right thing. 

“The opposition parties have no shred of credibility and all they care about is making political capital out of young people’s education.  

“I am confident that teachers know their pupils best, and that in these unique circumstances, given the choice between marking down results or allowing them to look better than some would’ve said was credible, there shouldn’t have been a thought about how the results would look but instead the only consideration should’ve been that there be no detrimental impact on the life chances of young people. 

“It is important to stress that, although we are talking about teacher estimates being downgraded, these estimates were made by teachers, they then discussed with their principal teacher and agreed it, the senior management team of the schools then discussed and agreed it, and then the local authority team verified the school's estimates. 

“This isn't teachers going rogue and over-estimating. 

“The SQA should be immediately instructed to re-issue grades to Scotland’s young people, giving them the grade that their teacher, and their schools, believe they deserved. “ 

Labour also announced it had started a petition calling for an investigation to the “fiasco”, and said Mr Swinney must publish the full methodology for the appeals process.

Labour MSP Iain Gray said that if the education secretary did not apologise to the young people of Scotland and act to rectify his failure then his position will be untenable.

He said: “All across Scotland, parents, pupils and teachers are united in outrage over John Swinney’s failure of the poorest students in our society.

“We urgently need a review into this fiasco to determine whether the downgrading of results by area has infringed the human rights of pupils.

“If John Swinney does not commit to this review and does not apologise to the young people of Scotland and seek to mitigate the damage he has wrought then his position is not sustainable.   

“Scottish Labour is calling on the people of Scotland to sign our petition to ensure that John Swinney is held to account for his actions.”

The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.