Estimated Examination Grades (Validation)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10th June 2021.

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Photo of Sharon Dowey Sharon Dowey Conservative

5. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government's response is to reports that, to meet the Scottish Qualifications Authority quality assurance processes, local authorities are validating teachers’ estimated grades using a school’s prior attainment data. (S6F-00078)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I welcome Sharon Dowey to the chamber.

As I did in my response to earlier questions, I assure young people that the grades that will be given to them by their teachers will not be marked down or up because of their school’s past performance. I am being absolutely clear about that. If a learner has demonstrated that they deserve a certain grade, that is the grade that they will receive.

Teachers and lecturers will let young people know their provisional results by 25 June. As I said, a quality assurance process is under way. I have explained how that will work. It is important to emphasise again that the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Education Scotland are not involved at that stage. Once provisional grades—which will be based on teachers’ judgements and not on algorithms—have been submitted to the SQA, they will not be changed because of the past performance of the school.

Photo of Sharon Dowey Sharon Dowey Conservative

It is not only pupils who face an uncertain year: teachers do, too. For new teachers who are just finishing their probationary year, new jobs are being advertised only now, with interviews being in the next few weeks. Not only does that create uncertainty for teachers, it causes problems for headteachers who are trying to fill posts and it leads to disruption to classes. Rural schools such as the Barony campus in Cumnock face even greater challenges because of their location.

Will the First Minister commit to a review of the teacher recruitment process, consider the possibility of increasing the powers that are available to local authorities to attract new teaching talent, and confirm that the funding that was promised for additional teachers has been allocated to councils? I have been told that it has not been allocated. Councils do not need the Scottish Government to look after recruitment; they need confirmed funding so that they can recruit for permanent positions.

The First Minister:

I will happily take away and consider the specific point about reviewing recruitment processes.

The funding will be available to councils. Obviously, we have given the commitment for the entire session of Parliament. We have also made a commitment for the first 100 days, and we will be in discussion with councils about funding for that.

It is important that councils have clarity in order that they can recruit. I repeat the point that I made in response to Willie Rennie’s question: we are in a situation right now in which teachers are required, so there should be employment opportunities for them. I expect the posts to be permanent in the main, but the councils are the employers and they need to be able to assess needs in their areas and take decisions based on that.

Sharon Dowey asked for further consideration of certain matters. I will certainly ensure that that is done, and I will revert to her as soon as possible.