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Don't rush to appeal

BEFORE enraged teachers submit multiple appeals for underperforming candidates in this year's exams, they would do well to digest the report of the independent review into appeals for last year's diet (page four). Results flood into schools today (Friday), leaving teachers to analyse every statistic of every pupil before candidates receive their certificates on Tuesday.

There will be many disappointments, just as there are elated students and teachers. For years prior to last year's debacle, the appeals system of the old Scottish Examination Board was unique, entirely trustworthy, highly valued and remarkably fair to candidates who did not do well on the day. That professional assessment was subsequently questioned by the results shambles. But the appeals process has been vindicated by the review. It is after all carried out by experienced teachers and lecturers on behalf of the Scottish Qualifications Authority - precisely why the teacher unions never jumped on the falling standards bandwagon. Amid the furore, anger and uncertainties this time last year, it was natural many should challenge results they could not believe. There were twice the number of appeals and 45 per cent were subsequently successful.

The system left many still unhappy and they appealed again but only a small minority succeeded in overturning earlier judgments. The uncomfortable message, first floated in The TES Scotland last August, is that many teachers simply did not understand the new standards required, partly causing the discrepancy between grade estimates and actual results. Appeal review teams, comprised of teachers and lecturers, say their colleagues failed to follow course requirements, marked leniently and gave erroneous impressions of final outcomes. Evidence for appeals was also weak. This is the judgment of fellow professionals.

Equally, the review teams blame the complexities of Higher Still and the SQA and Higher Still Development Unit for issuing screeds of information that sank overworked teachers struggling to introduce new courses and come to terms with new assessment procedures. But the marking and appeals processes appear sound, if under strain.

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