Exam results 2023: Teachers and young people must be at the heart of reforming system

Moving from a system of high stakes, high pressure exams and towards more continuous assessment is critical to closing the attainment gap, say the Scottish Greens.

The party’s education spokesperson, Ross Greer MSP has called for teachers and young people to be at the heart of reforms to the exams system and to the replacement of the SQA with a new exams body.

Mr Greer has also criticised the SQA for reversing some of the more progressive changes that were made to the appeal system last year after being championed by both Scottish Greens and learners. Those changes included a policy of 'no detriment' i.e. that no grade could be lowered on appeal, as well as provisions for those who faced exceptional circumstances such as family bereavement. Those provisions were dropped for 2023.

Commenting on the publication of the 2022-23 exam results, Mr Greer said:

“Despite the continued disruption to learning over the last year, these are very strong results and are a tribute to our young people and the fantastic teachers & school staff we have across Scotland.

“Exams are a far less accurate way of measuring a young person's knowledge and abilities than ongoing assessment throughout the year. That is why the Greens have long called for a move away from Scotland's Victorian-era high-stakes end-of-term exam system, where a learner who has excelled all year can currently have their future altered by a single bout of anxiety or a bad cold affecting their performance on the day. That's not to mention the disadvantage faced by those from chaotic household situations who might not have slept the night before their exams.

"That is exactly why the Scottish Greens secured the review of qualifications and assessments which became the Hayward report on the exams system.

“We were delighted by the bold changes that the review recommended and look forward to the discussion with teachers, students and parents/carers on how they can be taken forward.

“I am frustrated though that the SQA has reversed the important changes made to the appeals system last year. This will only entrench the attainment gap between pupils from the most and least disadvantaged backgrounds and penalise students who have faced exceptional circumstances.”