Scottish Labour calls for “level playing field” on exam appeals

Stuart Rodger

Scottish Labour points to figures showing private schools appealing at a higher rate than state schools

THE Scottish Labour party has made calls to scrap the charging system for exam appeals, saying that the current system gives private school pupils an unfair advantage.

Citing evidence from the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, Scottish Labour pointed to figures showing that six per cent of eligible entries are submitted by private schools, compared to 2.1 per cent from state schools.

Labour’s education spokesperson, Iain Gray MSP, said: “Pupils across Scotland will be considering this weekend whether to appeal grades they received on Tuesday. An exam appeal decision can be the deciding factor between a pupil getting to college or university, with all the opportunities that may bring. Money shouldn't come into it.”

“The figures clearly show that the SNP’s introduction of exam appeal fees has put pupils from state schools at a disadvantage.” Iain Gray

He added: “The figures clearly show that the SNP’s introduction of exam appeal fees has put pupils from state schools at a disadvantage compared to those educated privately. That is just not fair.”

Under the current system, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) does not charge if an appeal is successful. But if unsuccessful, the SQA will charge £10 for a basic clerical check, £29.75 for a marking review, and £39.75 for a priority marking review.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS union, said: "The main factor in any decision to appeal must always be a genuine belief, based on the professional judgement of teachers, that there is a strong chance of the appeal being successful. The issue of the potential cost of the appeal, including how this cost will be met, should never be a factor in the decision making process.”

He added: "All pupils should have an equal chance to potentially lodge an appeal, and teachers should be free to consider each request for an appeal to be submitted free of external pressure from any source."

A new appeals system was brought in by the SQA in 2014, after the number of appeals rose significantly, with the SQA saying that many lacked the evidence justifying an appeal. In 2011, 64,000 appeals were lodged, and less than half of those were successful.

 “[The SNP] should back a fair education system by committing to scrap these unfair fees.” Iain Gray

Before, all appeal costs were met centrally. Scottish Labour says this meant that rates of appeal between state and private schools were “previously similar”.

The SQA said at the time: “The new arrangements will mean that the appeals process will revert to how it was originally intended which was as a safety net to assist those candidates who had suffered disadvantage due to exceptional circumstances.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish government denied some students were put at a disadvantage: “No young person is at a disadvantage through the results service in Scotland. Only schools and colleges can make requests to SQA’s results services. Whether the pupil is from a local authority or independent school, a review can only be requested if the school has a legitimate query about a candidate’s results.

“As with all SQA charges, local authorities meet the costs of requests by public sector schools to use this service. National guidance from education directors makes clear that no young person should be denied access to this service on the grounds of cost.”

Picture courtesy of Learning and Teaching Scotland

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