Sturgeon apologises after outcry over exam results downgraded by ‘deprivation algorithm’

Written by Liam Kirkaldy and Sam Trendall on 11 August 2020 in News

First minister acknowledges misstep and vows to ‘put it right’

Credit: Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA Wire/PA Images

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised to pupils who had their exam marks downgraded, saying that "despite our best intentions I do acknowledge that we did not get this right and I am sorry for that".

She made the apology yesterday at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, ahead of a statement from in the Holyrood chamber today, in which education secretary John Swinney is expected to set out the Scottish Government’s response to growing criticism over exam results.

It comes after 133,000 grades provided by teachers were adjusted by the Scottish Qualifications Authority based on computer modelling systems that took into account the school’s past performance rather than evidence of the individual pupil’s ability. Pupils from poorer background were hardest hit, leading opposition parties to table a vote of no confidence in John Swinney.

Related content

Ian Murray, the Westminster representative for Edinburgh South and Labour’s shadow secretary of state for Scotland, told Sky News that students had been “downgraded because of their postcodes” – including at one school in his constituency, where he said 76% of grades had been revised down.

“If you go to a school in a deprived area, there has been a deprivation algorithm applied to the schools so that those grades that teachers gave you on your coursework and all your pre-learns have been downgraded because, essentially, what the Scottish Government have been saying to poorer students is: ‘you should know your place, and you don’t deserve those higher grades’,” he said.

He claimed that, prior to the vote of no confidence, the Scottish Government had “doubled down on this deprivation algorithm”. 

But Sturgeon pledged on Monday to address the situation, and apologised to those affected.

“We didn’t get this right,” she said. “I want to say to young people, I am sorry for that. As I said when results came out last week, this is a big moment in your lives and I am sorry that some of you have had this anxiety this week, but we are going to put it right for you and that is the commitment I am giving today.”


About the author

Liam Kirkaldy is online editor at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @HolyroodLiam.

Share this page




Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

Digital identity plans to promote 'vouching' by professionals
11 February 2021

Government will set legal requirements for digital identity providers rather than consider national identity cards

‘We’ve launched 18 new digital services since the start of the pandemic’
11 February 2021

Worcestershire County Council’s digital delivery leader Jo Hilditch tells PublicTechnology about how apps and digital platforms have supported the authority’s coronavirus response

Related Sponsored Articles

How digital is helping Defence Medical Services re-imagine HM Armed Forces healthcare
3 February 2021

Defence Medical Services (DMS) is pursuing ground-breaking digital, data and technology transformation which will revolutionise Tri-Service healthcare provision to over 135,000 Armed...

How Your Privacy Program is a Competitive Differentiator
29 January 2021

OneTrust presents the reasons why your organisation should invest in privacy management - and offers three easy tips for getting started 

Email security incidents happen every 12 hours – it’s time to close the gap in Microsoft 365
21 January 2021

The remote-first world has seen email being relied on more than ever as a core communication mechanism - but with 93% of IT leaders acknowledging a risk to sensitive data, what steps should be...