When John Swinney was forced into a humiliating apology last year, having overseen the biggest schools scandal of the devolution era, even a dyed-in-the-wool cynic like me thought some lessons would be learned: having put politics before pupils, and defended the status quo instead of students’ well-being, before it all came crashing down, surely both the SNP and the SQA would, at the very least, realise that this could never be allowed to happen again?

They did not.

Now here we are, nearly a year on, with the same first minister but a new education secretary, and with all the same people still running the SQA, staring down the barrel of a results crisis that is, if anything, a greater scandal that what we saw in 2020.

No matter how desperately Nicola Sturgeon or Shirley-Anne Somerville insist otherwise, it is glaringly obvious to pretty much everyone else that the model put in place this year has failed, and that the results it generates will not be credible or fair. The reason for this is simple: even after everything that has happened, neither the SNP leadership nor the SQA trust teachers.

Last year that played out in their aborted (and discriminatory) attempts to ‘moderate’ the grades assigned to their pupils, because overpaid bureaucrats, statisticians and politicians thought that knew better than teachers.

This year, the lack of trust is revealed in the demand that all grades must be based on “demonstrated attainment”, which is just an edu-babble way of saying “paperwork”. This is different from last year, when “inferred attainment” was applied.

Here’s the difference: in 2020, if a teacher knew a pupil deserved an A, but for whatever Covid-related reasons they only had the paperwork for a C, then the pupil could be awarded the A; this year, the same pupils is supposed to be given a C, despite the fact that everyone has faced much more disruption to their learning than was the case in the first few months of the pandemic.

So when the high heid yins try to convince you that this year is all about ‘teacher judgements’ instead of algorithms, it’s just not true. It’s really all about paperwork, and to hell with the kids who have, quite reasonably, not been able to get their best work down on a page this year. That’s why teenagers were ground through that assessment mill after easter, and it’s why teachers have been

It’s all incredibly grim, yet someone they managed to make it even worse this week.

The alleged appeals system (the details for which were a month late) is nothing of the sort: it is little more than an offer to remark the exams (that aren’t exams, of course) that pupils have sat or to check for administration errors – pupils’ actual circumstances during a deadly pandemic, whether they suffer from anxiety or have lost a parent, will still be ignored.

READ MORE: SQA and Education Scotland to be reformed

What’s more, the government and SQA have rejected a ‘no detriment’ approach, effectively threatening pupils with having their grades reduced if they do dare to appeal. The goal is to suppress the number of appeals partly for PR purposes but also, one suspects, because the SQA isn’t up to the job or running a proper appeals system anyway.

What have we learned at this point in the 2021 results scandal?

The SQA is, it turns out, capable of the sort of incompetence so advanced that it is almost impressive; the new education secretary seems like a continuation of her predecessor (who was a failure in the job) and already looks out of her depth; and the first minister continues to see education primarily as a party-political issue where she has to win, no matter who loses.

I feel like I’m forgetting something…

Oh, that’s right! The kids.

But I suppose they don’t really matter, do they?