4th August 2020. In a year where exams were cancelled for the first time in history it was the day, just under two weeks ago, when the results for Scottish National 5, higher and advanced higher exams were published.
The clear pattern in the results appeared to be that pupils from poorer backgrounds had been penalised due to the national moderation system that had been put in place. One of the most insightful statistics coming from results day is that the higher pass rate for pupils from the most deprived was down 15.2% compared to only 6.9% from the wealthiest pupils.
This new system that was used has been labelled a “postcode lottery” by critics. What this suggestion means is if you were educated at a school that historically achieved better results, or is situated in a more affluent area, you stand a better chance of directly effects your results, more often than not in a positive way. 125,000 grades estimated by teachers have been lowered to “maintain credibility”.
That was the official line from the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. In the past 10 days since results day Nicola Sturgeon and her extremely incompetent deputy first minister and education secretary John Swinney have faced significant questions and the response unfolding has been rather intriguing.
As a result of the significant scrutiny and questioning the SNP have done a complete U-turn on results and removed all downgraded exams. Thankfully, this will mean that all young people get what they deserve rather than getting punished. This global pandemic has brought a significant amount of disruption and hardship and it only seems fair that young people do not get punished any further. Although this U-turn appears to be the correct decision, there are still numerous questions that must be asked.
Arguably, the removal of John Swinney as Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary is well overdue. In the past few days, he was lucky to have survived the Labour motion of no confidence 67 votes to 58. The Green Party, who have the same views as the SNP about Scottish independence, were the saviours for Swinney. However, they demanded that a dramatic U-turn be taken on results as a price for their support.
Swinney has overseen Scottish education for four years. Yet, the improvements and progress have been minimal. Scotland’s education statistics do reveal in black and white the damage the SNP are causing for future generations. PISA figures were published in late 2019 and they make for rather grim reading, suggesting that Science and Maths are in a dire state in Scotland, with both these core subjects having achieved their highest score back in 2003 and 2006 respectively.
Although today’s reading score of 504 is an improvement on the 493 scored in 2015, it still has not reached the score of 526 in 2000. These statistics are, quite frankly, not acceptable. Many would suggest this exam scandal should be the final straw for Swinney and instead Scottish education should be driven forward in a new direction by someone new or even, arguably, a new party.
There is an investigation being carried out into this exam scandal, as there should be, but there is a significant issue with this enquiry. The SNP claim this investigation is ‘independent’, this is far from the truth, as they have an SNP peer Mark Priestly carrying out the investigation.
Priestly is an avid SNP supporter and this makes this investigation a long way away from being legitimate. The inevitable result of this ‘investigation’ you would suggest will be favourable for the SNP and therefore they will not be held accountable as they should be. The opposition to the SNP needs to keep their foot on the pedal in terms of making the SNP responsible, they must not be let away easily.
Further problems are brewing for the SNP. In the past few days there have been strong allegations of bullying released. The trade union for Senior Civil Servants stated it has received more complaints about bullying by ministers in the Scottish government than across all other UK ministerial departments put together. This could be devastating for the party and it will certainly be fascinating to see how this unfolds. The SNP’s support could be knocked and, needless to say, a chain reaction on the independence polls, which in the past month have been very favourable for the SNP.
The havoc this exam scandal has caused must never be repeated. It is clear for all to see that there are significant problems unfolding in Scottish politics. The misinterpretation that Covid-19 has been handled so well by Sturgeon is a fantasy as the country holds the third highest death rate in the world.
To be frank, the constant blinkered vision they hold on independence is unedifying. Looking to the future, they need to prove to the Scottish people that they can nail the fundamentals, such as education and healthcare, before independence is considered.