THE SNP’s Education Secretary has been accused of misleading Holyrood and introducing “an algorithm by stealth” amid the ongoing row over Scotland’s exam body.

Speaking in Holyrood last week, Shirley-Anne Somerville assured MSPs that “grades will be based not on historical data or use of an algorithm”, adding that professional judgements “alone” will determine grades of pupils this year.

The Scottish Conservatives have accused Ms Somerville of secrecy after an Education Scotland document reveled that in determining this year’s grades, staff will “analyse provisional results against three-year or five-year trends from historical data.”

The Scottish Government has insisted "there is no algorithm" being used this year, stressing that "no learner's grades will be marked  down or up because of their school's past performance".

Last year, a row erupted after it was revealed a school’s past performance was to be taken into account in moderating grades amid fears that pupils in more deprived areas would be hit hardest by the use of the algorithm.

Pass rates for pupils in the most deprived parts of Scotland were reduced by 15.2% in comparison with 6.9% for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds.

The Scottish Government was forced into a u-turn over the moderation leading to thousands of pupils whose marks were downgraded having their original grades reinstated.

Speaking in Holyrood last week, Ms Somerville said: “At the heart of the model are teachers’ and lecturers’ professional judgments, which are based on what learners have demonstrated that they have attained.

“Those judgments alone, based on learners’ work, will this year determine the grades that young people receive.

READ MORE: SQA and Education Scotland to be reformed

“Those grades will be based not on historical data or on use of an algorithm, but on what each individual learner has demonstrated that they know, understand and can do, through the work on which they have been assessed in school or college. That is the key difference this year, compared with what happened last year.”

But a Scottish Government spokesperson admitted that this year, a school's past performance may be used for "local quality assurance procedures".

Despite the assurances given by the Education Secretary last week that no repeat of the use of a controversial algorithm would take place, a report published by Education Scotland points to marks being compared with previous trends.

It adds that grades would be formulated based on “historic patterns and trends of attainment.”

The document states: “Local authority officers plan to analyse trends to discuss this year’s provisional results with headteachers, with a particular focus on verifying the data and identifying and challenging results or attainment patterns which appear anomalous.

“This includes consideration of historic patterns and trends of attainment when compared to this academic session’s provisional results, at individual, departmental and school-level.”

The Scottish Tories have accused Ms Somerville of having misled MSPs, pupils and parents and claimed the Scottish Government has attempted to introduce an “algorithm by stealth.”

Scottish Conservative education spokesperson, Oliver Mundell, said: “The SNP Education Secretary has misled Parliament, parents and pupils by falsely claiming that grades will not be based on historical data.

READ MORE: SQA appeals: Education Secretary at centre of growing storm

“This document confirms that the SNP have introduced an algorithm by stealth and kept it under the radar to avoid the inevitable and justifiable outrage.

“Limiting pupils’ grades using historical data and an algorithm is deeply unfair. It wrongly punishes young people because of their postcode, background or where they went to school.”

He added: “But the SNP and SQA are sleepwalking into the same shambles we saw last summer, only this time they’re being even more secretive. They seem to have replaced one flawed algorithm with dozens.

“The end result will be the same. The poorest children from the most deprived areas will once again be hit hardest by an SNP Government that no longer views education as a priority.

“The SNP Government and SQA’s fingerprints are all over this report. There’s no excuse for their doublespeak to keep the use of algorithms and historical data secret.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "There is no algorithm.

"The provisional grades given to learners by their teachers will – rightly – be subject to local quality assurance procedures. That may mean a school’s past performance is looked at within their local area to identify any cases where the provisional grades appear to be significantly out of step with past performance.

"If that happens, the provisional grades will be checked again by their teachers to make sure they are robust against the national standard.  However, no learner’s grades will be marked down or up because of their school’s past performance. If a learner has demonstrated they deserve as A, that’s the grade they will receive.

“Once the provisional grades have been submitted to the SQA, they will not be changed because of any school’s past performance.”