Rennie demands publication of datasets used to mark down disadvantaged schools and an expanded appeals process


Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today written to the First Minister to criticise the use moderations methods which he warned "has shackled well performing pupils in average schools by historical results over which they have had no control". 

Mr Rennie warned "I cannot fathom why there was no early transparency, scrutiny and discussion of the complex methodology used by the Scottish Qualifications Agency that has led to this injustice on a such large scale" and called for an expanded appeals process and immediate discussions with universities and colleges about the admissions criteria and deadlines to ensure that pupils disadvantaged do not lose out on sought after places.

Mr Rennie's letter is as follows:

Dear First Minister,

I am sure you will agree that young people have made tremendous sacrifices right through the pandemic forgoing many opportunities that may never be afforded to them again. It is the responsibility of their political leaders to mitigate, not accentuate, those disadvantages but with this year’s “exam” results there is little doubt that they have been failed.

The disadvantage and inequality that has been growing over the last decade and more has been baked-in to the results this year. The large readjustments imposed by the SQA has placed a magnifying glass over the failure to close that performance gap between the most and least deprived. This has shackled well performing pupils in average schools by historical results over which they have had no control.

I cannot fathom why there was no early transparency, scrutiny and discussion of the complex methodology used by the Scottish Qualifications Agency that has led to this injustice on a such large scale. Leading academics such as Professor Guy Nelson of Imperial College have called for the immediate publication of the algorithms and the sample data sets deployed. He, along with others, are very critical of the opaque explanation published only yesterday detailing exactly what has been done. I ask that you publish this without delay and provide a full explanation as to why this was not done earlier when the situation could have been rectified.

That this comes within weeks of the reopening of universities and colleges and within days of the full-time restart of school only compounds the injustice and limits the opportunity to rectify. Because of the secrecy and delay time is now running out.

The appeals process is likely to be overwhelmed and place considerable demands on teachers who have also been charged with health and safety of our pupils who return to school full time next week for the first time during this pandemic.

The funding and the resource for the appeals process must be increased to meet the considerable demand. There must be immediate discussions with our universities and colleges about the admissions criteria and deadlines to ensure that pupils disadvantaged do not lose out on sought after places whilst they await their appeal conclusion.

Thousands have been let down by the government just when they needed it most. It is now your responsibility to correct this and everyone – especially pupils, parents and carers – will be watching.

Yours sincerely,

Willie Rennie
Leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats


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