Sturgeon on SQA results: 'We did not get this right'

Government thought 'too much about the overall system and not enough about the individual pupil', says first minister

Henry Hepburn

Sturgeon on SQA results: 'We did not get this right'

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has conceded that the government took the wrong action on Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) results.

She said this lunchtime that "despite our best intentions, I do acknowledge that we did not get this right", and that she was "sorry for that".

Ms Sturgeon, speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, said: "Our concern – which was to make sure that the grades young people got were as valid as those they would have got in any other year – perhaps led us to think too much about the overall system and not enough about the individual pupil."


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The first minister made her comments amid the ongoing storm about pupils from more deprived areas being more likely to have teacher estimates downgraded.

Ms Sturgeon said she understood why these young people might feel the system was "stacked against them" and had done "a lot of soul searching". She had read a number of letters and emails from young people over the weekend, and said "the thing that most troubled me" was seeing them think that their results would not reflect how hard they had worked.

The first minister told students: "I am sorry that some of you have had this anxiety this week, and we are going to put this right."

She said: "We will be taking steps to ensure that every young person gets a grade that recognises the work they have done.

“Our concern – which was to make sure that the grades young people got were as valid as those they would have got in any other year – perhaps led us to think too much about the overall system and not enough about the individual pupil.”

She also said that ministers in England and Wales – from Tory and Labour administrations – had made similar decisions about results to those which had been so controversial in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon also gave her backing to John Swinney, the education secretary and deputy first minister, who is facing a no-confidence motion in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Swinney will make a statement in Parliament tomorrow.

Scottish Greens education spokesman Ross Greer, the MSP who was most vocal about concerns over SQA moderation before the results were published last week, said: “I’m pleased that the first minister has now acknowledged that her government got this wrong and apologised.

“The working class young people who were unfairly treated last week need an urgent solution to this unacceptable situation.

“The education secretary’s statement to Parliament must announce the kind of systemic solution the Greens have demanded, otherwise our confidence in this government’s ability to discharge its responsibilities in education will come into question.”

Votes are needed from all parties in the chamber to pass a vote of no confidence in Mr Swinney.

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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