SNP blasted over ‘mistakes’ in education reform amid exam grades anger – ‘Fiasco’

SNP slammed by Andrew Bowie for not showing up to debate

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Speaking to Express.co.uk, Oliver Mundell, the Scottish Conservative Shadow Education Secretary, accused the SNP of presiding over a “fiasco” with last year’s exam results. Mr Mundell’s comments follow the SNP pledge to overhaul Scotland’s qualification bodies.

He said: “Over their 14 years in office, the SNP has continually let down our young people.

“Thousands of teachers have been slashed from our classrooms, pupils’ subject choice has been limited and they’ve only made limited progress on closing the attainment gap in our schools.

“Under the SNP, Scotland have slid down international league tables, having once been the envy of the world.”

Mr Mundell added: “They also presided over a fiasco when it came to last year’s exams results.

“While they might have changed the Minister in charge of education, this year’s process shamefully looks like being even worse.”

Last week, the SNP’s Education Secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, announced plans to overhaul two of Scotland’s qualification bodies – the SQA and Education Scotland.

Students across the country voiced anger after a row involving exam appeals which could see their grades move down as well as up.

The education sector has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic as formal exams had to be cancelled for a second year in a row.

Last year, ministers were forced to upgrade tens of thousands of exam results after pupils bemoaned how the grades had been awarded.

According to the alternative qualification model introduced after formal exams were cancelled for a second year running, grades are to be awarded on the basis of “teacher judgement of evidence of learner attainment.”

However, critics pointed out the second national lockdown at the start of the year meant most assignments were issued in the final weeks before the end of term.

Critics said pupils sat “exams in all but name”, often conducted with less preparation and more intensive time constraints.

On Thursday, Ms Somerville gave pupils a “cast-iron” guarantee that no young person will be further disadvantaged by this year’s assessments.

She promised: “If your teacher thinks you deserve an A, you will get an A.”

Mr Mundell continued: “They haven’t learned a single lesson from their mistakes of last year and won’t even come clean on how they have got it wrong again.

“Simply trying to tinker round the edges of reforming the SQA just doesn’t cut it.

“It is a body that is not fit for purpose and must be axed immediately.

“Axing the SQA would only be the start of the ways towards restoring Scotland’s education to its previous high standards.”

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In response to Mr Mundell’s comments, a spokesperson for Ms Somerville said: “The Tories’ false claims simply don’t add up – the reality is that teacher numbers across Scotland have increased for the fifth year in a row – there are now more teachers than at any time since 2008, and the ratio of pupils to teachers is at its lowest since 2010.

“Instead of mounting baseless smears and seeking to undermine confidence in Scotland’s education system, Mr Mundell should apologise for his party’s endorsement this week of a bizarre proposal to force politically motivated Tory-led lessons on Scotland’s teachers and pupils.”

Ms Somerville has previously stated that reform to the authorities would form part of “wide-ranging plans for education recovery” in the next 100 days and beyond.

She added that the plans to overhaul the system showed “our determination to deliver improvements with pace and urgency.”

She said: “I am open to considering what further reform is necessary, with the clear purpose of doing all we can to improve outcomes for children.

“This includes reducing variability in the outcomes children and young people achieve across the country.”

Ms Somerville added that she would take “full responsibility” for the new system.

Before the Education Secretary’s overhaul announcement, Nicola Sturgeon said she had full confidence in the SQA.

She later admitted that the replacement system put in place for the pandemic was “not perfect”.

Speaking last week, Mr Mundell said that the SNP leader “can’t have it both ways”.

He said: “Nicola Sturgeon said she had full confidence in the SQA, yet a couple of hours later her education secretary announces that she wants to reform the SQA after its continued failures.

“That will hardly inspire confidence among pupils, parents and teachers who the SNP have continually let down.”

Writing on Twitter on June 3, Jamie Greene, Shadow Justice Secretary for the Scottish Tories, said the SNP’s “U-turn” on this reform was “long overdue”.

He said: “The @ScotTories brought this to a vote in the last term of parliament and it was brushed under the carpet by ministers with their heads in the sand.”

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