Island pupil highlights exam unfairness after being downgraded in all five Highers

An island teenager has called on the Scottish government to address the “unfairness” of this year’s exam results.

Eva Peteranna, a fifth year pupil at Sgoil Lionacleit in Benbecula, has written a letter outlining her own situation to Scottish education secretary John Swinney.

In the letter she reveals that in all five of her Highers she was downgraded from the award she had been predicted to achieve.

Eva’s letter to John Swinney

In one subject a predicted grade of B was returned as a fail. The rest were reduced by a single grade and she has missed out on As in English, Biology and Modern Studies, as well as a C in Higher Chemistry.

Eva said to have her grades knocked down so significantly has made her “completely reconsider her career path”.

Exams were cancelled this year because of Covid-19 and replaced with estimated grades based on past attainment, and the school’s previous exam record.

The modelling system adapted by the Scottish Qualifications Authority reduced the grades of around 125,000 results, with analysis suggesting youngsters from poorer backgrounds and historically poorer performing schools suffered disproportionately.

In her letter, shared almost 2,000 times on Twitter, Eva said that “it was clear” that her grades had been significantly adjusted “because I go to a school classed as underperforming”.

Her letter calls for the system, which she describes as discriminatory, to be urgently investigated, adding: “The government has been pushing the ‘no wrong path slogan’ but why should pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and deprived areas be forced into a pathway they didn’t want and worked tirelessly to avoid”.

Eva had been predicted in her fourth year to achieve 4 As and two Cs at national five level, but in her exams she improved to come out with five As and a B.

She added that her school’s recent performance had been affected by staff shortages.

She had stayed behind after school for extra tuition, aiming to secure a university place and a career in the field of medicine.

“Any further efforts by pupils to achieve higher grades in schools which have historically underperformed has been disregarded, she added.

“SQA results this year have been more about fitting the statistical trends than the individual pupil.”

According to the Scottish Government’s own statistics, the estimated 85.1 per cent of most deprived pupils who would have expected an A-C band at Higher was lowered to 69.9 per cent by the SQA’s moderation system. By contrast, for the least deprived pupils, the predicted 91.5 per cent for A-C grades was lowered to 84.6 per cent.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday that it would not be “credible” to have accepted the high pass rates as recommended by teachers.

The First Minister and education secretary John Swinney both urged pupils to appeal if they feel they have been treated unfairly.

Both Highland Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have said overall pass rates in the region were up on the previous year

There’s more on the exams issue in this week’s West Highland Free Press, out now…..