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In the absence of the 2020 exam diet, fairness has to be delivered for all learners, and the chief examiner has set out that fairness is one of the three core principles on which the SQA is basing its approach to the award of qualifications in this extraordinary year.
The SQA has reaffirmed its commitment to transparency and fairness, and has committed to publishing its completed equality impact assessment and the details of its approach to certification this year.
As the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills will appreciate, for many young people throughout Scotland, the process of grading is a stressful and worrying time. It is important that our young pupils are able to achieve the maximum grades possible, consistent with their abilities.
For pupils who stay in areas of social deprivation or attend schools whose performance has previously dipped, will the cabinet secretary give a categoric assurance that the grading process will not have a detrimental effect on the grades that they are awarded?
Mr Kelly raises important points. The examination and certification process in any year is stressful for young people, and I accept that in the current conditions it is even more stressful for them. It is absolutely essential that the issues that Mr Kelly has raised are properly and fully taken into account in the approaches that the Scottish Qualifications Authority is taking to ensure that no young person is disadvantaged because of where they come from and what their circumstances have been. Young people should be judged on their ability and talents, and I am assured by the SQA that that is what the certification system will do this year.
What are the cabinet secretary’s expectations on the volume of appeals and the potential for delays that may result? He will be aware that timing will be important for university and college admissions. Is he confident that there will be sufficient capacity to deliver on the appeals on time?
It is difficult for me to predict the volume of appeals, because the certification process has not yet been completed. However, the SQA has developed the appeals process. Obviously, it will rely on the contribution of teachers to that process, which is an essential part of the work that is undertaken. Capacity must be in place to ensure that, as I said in answer to Mr Kelly, no young person suffers any disadvantage as a consequence of the circumstances that we face.