Plans to return exam scripts to students ‘are on path’

The growth in digital versions of exam answer papers means returning scripts is ‘the direction of travel’, says SQA boss

Emma Seith

Exam appeals: SQA ‘on path’ to returning exam scripts to pupils

If an organisation has CCTV footage of you, you can ask for it. In fact, the public now has the right to find out what information everyone from businesses such as Tesco to the government is holding about them. But one piece of information exempt from these rules is marked exam papers.

However, the head of Scotland’s exam body, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, has made positive noises about scripts being made available to pupils in the future.

SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson has said that the direction of travel is to “return exam scripts to candidates over time” – although she stressed that such a service was “not cost-neutral”.

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The fact that the SQA is open to returning scripts will be welcomed by the likes of independent school head Melvyn Roffe.

Mr Roffe, principal of George Watson’s College in Edinburgh, has argued in the past that this level of transparency would lay to rest concerns about whether the system for appealing results is tilted in favour of private schools, as a result of the changes introduced in 2014 for unsuccessful checks and reviews.

Transparency on exam appeals

In 2018, while state schools appealed just 2.4 per cent of exam entries, independent schools appealed 6.8 per cent.

Ms Robertson said: “We are on a path particularly around the digitisation of assessment. I think the direction of travel would be to potentially return exam scripts to candidates over time. I think that’s something we need to consider quite carefully in the context of our resourcing and our systems, but it’s something I think we should keep very live in our thinking, particularly as more assessment material is available digitally, which makes that easier and potentially not so costly.

"But I think we do need to think of this in the context of our costs; it’s not cost-neutral to do that.”

However, Ms Robertson, who was speaking at yesterday's meeting of the Education and Skills Committee at the Scottish Parliament, stressed that returning marked scripts would not be possible at the present time. She said that the SQA marked around a million scripts every year and in some subjects it remained the case that there was just “one single paper copy”.

The SQA also said that the majority of coursework had yet to be digitised.

The law on data protection states that candidates do not have the right to copies of their answers to the exam questions. However, they do have the right to information recorded by the person marking the exam.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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