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Making a good case for appeal

There has been recent media coverage about our derived grades process.

I should make it clear at the outset that we value and seek to treat equally all those who take our qualifications. Our assessment process is built around the professional expertise and judgement of teachers and lecturers in the classroom in designing units and courses, in preparing and marking assessments, and in reviewing evidence for appeals.

They share with us a continuing commitment to the best interests of all Scotland's students.

Our inclusive appeals process is based on the review of alternative evidence of achievement, the first step of which is derived grades. Appeals can be made where a student fails to achieve the estimated grade. For this, a school must submit credible alternative evidence of achievement for review.

Some teachers are better than others at estimating their students' exam performance. This is not a reflection on the profession; the circumstances in each classroom are different.

With Standard grade, where teachers normally have students for two years, estimates tend to be more accurate than in those courses where teacher and students are together for a shorter time. This is partly why Standard grade accounts for, by far, most derived grades.

The derived grades process uses this knowledge to anticipate and 'fast track' the appeals of students whose teachers are good at estimating. These students gain their deserved grade without going through the next part of the appeal process.

However, all other students who fail to achieve their estimated grade can be the subject of an appeal. As derived grades can only improve an award by one grade, it is not uncommon for us to receive appeals on behalf of students who have already benefited from them.

While derived grades have been used successfully for many years, we have kept them under review, making changes where needed. That process will continue.

We have recently written to all schools and colleges asking for evidence that would have been used to support an appeal had the student not benefited from derived grades.

We will review the evidence and decide what, if any, further action is required. We will publish our findings and the details of subsequent action.

Tom Drake SQA director of operations and quality assurance

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