SCOTLAND'S exam board rejected calls for borderline National 5 pupils to be handed a "compensatory" qualification amid the results fiasco – insisting it would cause "significant operational risks".

Education Secretary John Swinney was forced to close schools and cancel this year’s exams diet after the coronavirus pandemic swept across Scotland.

But a row heated up after the process used by the SQA to moderate teacher estimates in place of exams resulted in thousands of grades being downgraded – hitting pupils from less affluent schools more harshly as past performance of a schools was taken into account.

This led to a u-turn by Mr Swinney with the downgrades reverted to the original teacher estimates. Next year’s National 5 exams have already been cancelled to give enough time to avoid a repeat of the problems.

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But correspondence released under Freedom of Information requests has revealed that a plea issued from council education directors for an additional grade at National 4 to be awarded to some of those on the National 5 borderline was ruled out by the SQA, who warned it would “result in inaccurate and incomplete data for all qualifications”.

In April, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES), asked Mr Swinney to “allow teachers to give credit to a pupil, who has not been able to demonstrate the standard for National 5 but where the necessary work and commitment has demonstrated learning at National 4 level, to be rewarded appropriately”.

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The proposal, issued by Steven Quinn on behalf of ADES, added: “In order to be as fair as possible to candidates, particularly those who do not already have prior attainment, it is proposed to reintroduce a band which gives a ‘fallback’ or compensatory National 4 award.”

The proposal was considered by the SQA, but the organisation said the idea would “pose additional risk due to the need to change legacy systems”.

The SQA added: “To conclude, the SQA considers there to be significant operational risks attached to this proposal, which could have unintended consequences and result in inaccurate and incomplete data for all qualifications due to be certified in August.”

Mr Swinney then wrote to Carrie Lindsay, president of ADES, confirming the proposal had been rejected.

He added: “An extended D grade at National 5 level was introduced to ensure that marginal candidates would not be disadvantaged.”

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Emails sent by Scotland’s chief examiner, Fiona Robertson, also set out her reasoning for failing to engage with schools in the moderation process.

In the independent investigation into the exams fiasco, Professor Mark Priestly pointed to “dialogue with centres” being used to compliment the moderation process.

Professor Priestly added that teachers and local authorities “felt very strongly that there was a need to have a system in place for verifying evidence used for producing estimates” and said “the SQA should have engaged in dialogue with local authorities”.

He added: “We have seen evidence that local authorities were concerned that centre estimates would be subject to arbitrary moderation by the national moderation process.

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“Some local authorities told us that their centres submitted rationales for variances between the 2020 centre estimates and the centre’s historical attainment to SQA. Other local authorities collected such data from the centres and expected to be contacted by SQA.”

But in correspondence, Ms Robertson, sent to the Qualifications Contingency Group on June 30, said: “We have considered the matter very carefully, including further discussions with our board of management and we have concluded that it will not be possible to include engagement with schools and colleges within the moderation process.

“There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the difficulty of operating a dialogue which is fair and consistent in its treatment of all centres and candidates – you may recall that I talked this through.

“Secondly, it is just not possible to enter into a dialogue in the very tight timescales we are working to – reviewing 22,000 datasets across 142 subjects from almost 500 centres – between the receipt of estimates on 29 May and finalisation of grades which, for awarding purposes, are required by 10 July.”