JOHN Swinney has been accused of allowing the exams fiasco to “fester for days” after newly-released correspondence revealed he was inundated with a dossier of criticism from parents and pupils before eventually signaling a U-turn.

The Education Secretary faced calls to quit after thousands of pupils saw their teacher estimated marks downgraded through moderation from the SQA – before a change of heart led to the original grades being allowed to stand.

Mr Swinney was forced to cancel this year’s exams amid the Covid-19 pandemic. But the moderation from the SQA led to thousands of grades being downgraded, with those from loess affluent backgrounds hardest hit with a schools’ past performance taken into account in the process.

The Scottish Government faced a backlash for the situation before announcing any student that was downgraded would have their original teacher estimates count.

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Now, correspondence from parents and young people sent to Mr Swinney in the immediate hours following the results being announced in August shows the level of anger the Scottish Government faced.

The angry messages were sent to Mr Swinney within four hours of results being announced on August 4 – but the Scottish Government did not announce its change of heart until August 11.

The Scottish Government has insisted that Mr Swinney took “swift decisions” to rectify the injustice.

One parent told Mr Swinney that the “randomly calculated” results had put her daughter’s “dreams in jeopardy”.

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They added: “In the midst of a global pandemic we appear to have an alleged leadership prepared not only to run like headless chickens when dealing with our wage earners, we have an education system in a state of shock and paralysis prepared to condemn our rising talent to the dustbin.”

Another described the fiasco as a “national embarrassment” while a 16-year-old told Mr Swinney that her “hard work this year has been ignored”.

Scottish Conservative education spokesperson, Jamie Greene, said questions need to be answered over why Mr Swinney took so long to announce his U-turn after immediately facing a backlash from parents and pupils.

Mr Greene said: “John Swinney was rightly inundated by a blitz of criticism from furious parents and youngsters over his exam debacle.

“It seems astonishing that he wouldn’t have been aware of the anger that was being instantly felt.

“The situation was allowed to fester for days, without any sign of a U-turn from the SNP’s Education Secretary.

“It was only when his own job was on the line that he sprang into action.

“Angry parents and pupils deserved far better leadership from Mr Swinney who buried his head in the sand in the face of mounting critical correspondence.”

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An independent review of the exams episode by Professor Mark Priestly found that Mr Swinney had asked officials on August 6 to “do lots of digging in the stats to show how young people from deprived backgrounds have not been disadvantaged by the results”.

Professor Priestly warned that “even at this late stage, the focus seemed to rest on presenting a positive picture rather than seeking a fuller understanding of the nuances in the data.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Following the release of results in August by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) we were determined that every student should get a grade that reflected the work they had done.

“The Deputy First Minister took swift decisions that all downgraded awards would be withdrawn and directed the SQA to re-issue those awards based solely on teacher or lecturer judgement, or SQA moderated teacher and lecturer estimates where these were higher. He also took the view it was important this information was announced to the Scottish Parliament at the first available opportunity.”

They added: “We have always been clear that lessons needed to be learned from this process, and that is why the Deputy First Minster commissioned a rapid review of the process, which has subsequently reported.

“The Government has accepted eight of the nine recommendations and is already working to implement the necessary changes.”