NICOLA Sturgeon hit back at Douglas Ross’s claims that the Scottish Government is being “sleekit” over exam grading rules and said he was “misrepresenting reality”.

The First Minister took the Scottish Tory leader to task this afternoon during FMQs in Holyrood as he probed the way pupils will have their results graded this year.

The debate centred around two issues: how grades for pupils will be marked, and the way in which the appeals process works. 

However, Ross was accused of conflating the two different parts of the system into one – with the FM insisting he was “misrepresenting” the issue.

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The Tory leader suggested that this year “young people will lose out based solely on where they go to school” and accused the government of being "sleekit".

He suggested that three in four local councils are analysing results based on previous historical data. 

In 2020, more than 120,000 exam results had to be reinstated after they were downgraded based on the previous performance of their schools. This year, a new system has been put in place. 

The First Minister hit back at the accusation and said it was “simply not the case”.

The National:

She said: “The only way a school’s past performance is looked at within a local area is to identify whether a school overall might have provisional grades that appear to be significantly out of step with past performance.

“However, and this is the important part, if that happens, then what happens, not by the SQA, not by Education Scotland, the provisional grades are checked again by the relevant teachers. The key part is this - if the teacher's judgement is that they stand by the result they gave, then that result stands, it is not changed.

“It is simply a checking procedure but it ends in the same place where it is the teacher's judgement based on the attainment of the pupil that determines the grade.”

The FM added that once provisional grades are submitted to the SQA, which is not involved in the process prior to that, then they will still not be changed based on a school's past performance. 

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Ross then went on to quote members of the Scottish Youth Parliament, and said that young people should be able to appeal their grade without the risk of a downgrade.

There have been calls for a no-detriment process, whereas the Scottish Government is pursuing a symmetrical appeals process which it says is “fairer”.

As Ross claimed the Government was asking pupils to “roll the dice with their future” and conflated the two distinct issues, Sturgeon quickly hit back. 

The National:

She said: “I’ll come on to the appeals process in a second, but already we see here Douglas Ross used the word sleekit earlier on and if I may say so I think there’s a bit of that in how he posed that question because he took the comments of young people, perfectly legitimate comments from young people, about the appeals part of the system and almost suggested they were backing up what he said about the earlier part of the system in his first question. 

“So before I come on to appeals, let me conclude the explanation around the first part of the system, the main part of the system because we want to get it right on the first time for young people so they don’t have to appeal. Douglas Ross said I ignored the points he made, I didn’t ignore the points he made. I simply refuse to go along with his misrepresentation of what that means in practice.”