Monday, February 09, 2015

Dundee examination appeals drop a real cause for concern

I have today highlighted the huge drop in the number of SQA examination appeals or re-marking of papers and a resultant sharp decline in Dundee pupils being successful in having a disappointing SQA exam result being successfully re-marked.  The figures – which appear to show a similar pattern Scotland-wide – show a worrying trend.

The City Council’s Education Department has advised me as follows :
The Head of Secondary Education at Dundee City Council has advised me :

“It is worth pointing out SQA have recently changed their system.  In the last two years they no longer have used appeals as we would know them.   They use a re-marking procedure only.   This will mean that data in the last two diets will be entirely different from the pattern before this  SQA consulted widely on this change and the educational consensus was that the new system was fairer and gave greater credibility to the examination system.”

I accept that the new system cannot be directly compared to the old appeals system as it is now a re-marking procedure only.     In the old appeal system, schools sent additional evidence to show how well pupils had previously performed ‎- usually a prelim paper and mark.   However you look at it though, the fact remains that where in some years nearly 900 Dundee pupils’ marks were successfully appealed under the old system and now fewer than 30 pupils’ results were improved under the new system.

It is really concerning that we are seeing such a huge drop in pupils’ examination results being reviewed where the pupil, parent and teacher feels the initial grade may be incorrect and the fact that the old system of using additional documentary evidence is no longer taken into account concerns me too.

Additionally, the SQA now charges schools £29.75 for a marking review and £39.75 for a priority marking review.   I understand some private schools are letting parents pay this if they demand their son or daughter gets their exam script re-marked, but local authority schools’ parents are not permitted to pay.    There are good reasons why Education Departments do not permit parents to pay given that many parents simply cannot afford to meet such a cost, but the fact that it is allowed at all gives an unfair imbalance towards private schools.

However, leaving aside the cost issue, it is a concerning situation where only 28 pupils’ results across Dundee were re-marked upwards last year, where under the old appeals system, hundreds of Dundee pupils successfully appealed.