ScotGov Forced into U-Turn on SQA Results

After a backlash from school students and opposition politicians, Education Secretary John Swinney has announced that thousands will have their grades increased.
by Shaun Morris

Students who had their final grades lowered as a result of SQA ‘moderation’ will have them increased to match grades estimated by teachers. These estimates were previously dismissed by the Scottish Government and SQA as being “not credible” and inflated, i.e. awarding too many good grades above the previous years’ distribution.

Swinney hastily responded to the scandalised press and angry students over the weekend, promising Tuesday’s announcement. On Saturday Nicola Sturgeon also publicly rowed back on the supposed “credibility” ensured by the SQA moderation, apologising for the upset caused. With condemnation coming from all quarters and the prospect of a wave of appeals looming, the Scottish Government were forced to find a hasty solution.

While many students will feel relieved, opposition parties at Holyrood are still trying to seize the moment over a vote of no confidence in the Education Secretary. The Tories, Liberal Democrats and Labour looked likely to succeed with the wavering support of the Scottish Greens, until Swinney’s u-turn.

Speaking of the reversal, Sturgeon said they would not always “get it right” and praised the Scottish Government’s (i.e. her own) virtue of being able to change its mind under enormous public pressure. As covered in our previous analysis, however, the question of “getting it right” is a political one.

What is “right” for working class students and what is “right” – or “credible”, to use the Scottish Government’s own phraseology – for the capitalist job market are two very different things. It is for the sake of the latter consideration that the ‘moderation’ policy was introduced, disproportionately penalising working class students.