SQA results

Downgraded results scrapped; qualifications to be based on teacher judgement.

Pupils whose results were downgraded by the SQA are to receive new grades based solely on teacher estimates.

The SQA’s alternative certification model was put in place after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus (COVID-19). After listening to the concerns of affected young people, parents and teachers over the last week, Ministers are directing the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to re-issue downgraded awards solely on the basis of teacher judgement, without reference to historical patterns.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney today apologised to the 75,000 young people whose estimated mark was reduced by the SQA and said that the downgraded awards risked ‘young people, particularly from working class backgrounds may lose faith in education and form the view that no matter how hard you work, the system is against you.’

As a result:

  • Where a teacher estimate was adjusted down by the SQA, candidates will receive the grade the teacher awarded
  • Candidates whose entries were adjusted up by the SQA will retain the higher grade
  • The SQA will inform schools of the revised results by Friday 21 August for schools to tell pupils. New certificates will be issued in due course.
  • The SQA will provide new grades to UCAS and other college and university admissions bodies, and the Scottish Government will ensure enough places at colleges and universities so that all places awarded to young people can be taken up

In order to learn lessons and plan for next year:

  • Ministers have asked Professor Mark Priestley of Stirling University to conduct an independent review of the events following the cancellation of the examination diet and make recommendations for the coming year. This will initially report within five weeks.
  • The OECD’s ongoing independent review of Curriculum for Excellence will be asked to include recommendations on how to transform Scotland’s approach to assessment and qualifications, based on global best practice.

Mr Swinney said:

“These are exceptional times, and in exceptional times truly difficult decisions are made. In speaking directly to the young people affected by the downgrading of awards – the seventy-five thousand pupils whose teacher estimates were higher than their final award - I want to say this: I am sorry. 

“I have listened and the message is clear. They don’t just want an apology, they want to see this fixed and that is exactly what I will now do. To resolve this issue all downgraded awards will be withdrawn. I am directing the SQA to re-issue those awards based solely on teacher or lecturer judgement.

“We now accept that the risk of undermining the value of qualifications is outweighed by a concern that young people, particularly from working class backgrounds, may lose faith in education and form the view that no matter how hard you work, the system is against you. Education is the route out of poverty for young people in deprived communities and we cannot risk allowing that view to take hold.

“The SQA will issue fresh certificates to affected candidates  as soon as possible and, importantly, will inform UCAS and other admission bodies of the new grades as soon as practical in the coming days to allow for applications to college and university to be progressed.

“I would like to thank all of Scotland’s children, young people and adult learners for the incredible resilience they have shown throughout the COVID-19 epidemic. We are immensely proud of all that they have achieved. I hope that our pupils now move forward confidently to their next step in education, employment or training with the qualifications that teachers or lecturers have judged were deserved.

“We will look to learn lessons from the process to awarding qualifications this year that will help to inform any future actions. An Independent Review, led by Professor Mark Priestly of Stirling University, will look at events following the cancellation of the examination diet and given the urgency, I have asked for an initial report with recommendations on how we should go forward this coming year within five weeks.”


Read Education Secretary John Swinney's statement to Parliament


Media enquiries

Back to top