School grades: 'We did not get this right, I am sorry for that'

The first minister has apologised for the way pupils' grades were determined in Scotland.

The SQA worked out results based on teachers' assessments, prelim exam scores and past school performances, after the exams diet this year was cancelled.

But it led to thousands of youngsters receiving lower grades than expected, with claims it affected those in disadvantaged backgrounds worst.

Some opposition politicians have even called for Education Secretary John Swinney to resign from his position.

Last week, Mr Swinney insisted the system they had used was "fair".

But at her briefing today, Nicola Sturgeon said: "John Swinney will make a statement in parliament tomorrow about the steps  we intend to take to address concerns about this year’s results.

"And at the heart of that, we will be taking steps to ensure that every young person gets a grade that recognises the work they have done.

"Let me be clear about this - in a very difficult and unprecedented situation, we took decisions that we thought, on balance, were the right ones, and we took them with the very best of intentions. These were broadly the same decisions that have been reached for England and Wales as well.

"But our concern – which was to make sure that the grades young people got, were as valid as those they would have got in any other year - perhaps led us to think too much about the overall system and not enough about the individual pupil.

"And that has meant that too many students feel that they have lost out on grades they should have had - and also that has happened  as a result, not of anything they’ve done, but because of a statistical model or an algorithm.  In addition, that burden has not fallen equally across our society.

"So despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge that we did not get this right and I am sorry for that.

"But instead of doing what politicians  sometimes do and dig our heels in, we are determined to acknowledge that and to put it right.

"There are, of course, deeper questions that we will need to resolve for the longer term - about the impact of exams on the attainment gap, and on the difference between exams and teacher judgment.

"But the most immediate challenge is to resolve the grades awarded to pupils this year.

"As I have said we will set out our approach tomorrow to the Scottish Parliament, but let me be clear that we will not expect every student who has been downgraded to appeal.

"This situation is not the fault of students, and so it should not be on students to fix it.  That is on us, and we will set out tomorrow exactly how we intend to do that."

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