Scotland politics

Scottish Labour calls for exam appeal fees to be scrapped

Exams Image copyright PA

Scottish Labour has renewed its call for exam appeal charges to be scrapped after new figures showed private schools were much more likely to appeal results than local authority schools.

Data from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) showed independent schools appealed 6% of results in 2015.

That compared with 2.1% for council-run secondaries.

The Scottish government said "no young person is at a disadvantage through the results service in Scotland".

Labour said appeal fees should be scrapped in order to "level the playing field for every pupil".

It is concerned that fees of up to £39.75 for appeals could deter some local authority schools from applying.

The new appeal rate figures were revealed in evidence from the SQA to MSPs on Holyrood's Education Committee,

Fees were introduced by the SQA in 2014 to help deter schools from putting in purely speculative appeals.

In 2013 local authority schools submitted 62,486 appeals, but the following year the total dropped to 7,056 before rising again in 2015 to 9,584.

'Not fair'

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said it seemed SNP ministers "could not care less about this unfairness in the system".

He said: "They talk the talk on equity, so they should back a fair education system by committing to scrap these unfair fees, and level the playing field for every pupil."

With the 2016 exam results published last week week, Mr Gray said: "Pupils across Scotland will be considering this weekend whether to appeal grades they received on Tuesday.

"An exam appeal decision can be the deciding factor between a pupil getting to college or university, with all the opportunities that may bring. Money shouldn't come into it.

"The figures clearly show that the SNP's introduction of exam appeal fees has put pupils from state schools at a disadvantage compared to those educated privately.

"That is just not fair."

'Legitimate query'

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "No young person is at a disadvantage through the results service in Scotland. Only schools and colleges can make requests to SQA's results services.

"Whether the pupil is from a local authority or independent school, a review can only be requested if the school has a legitimate query about a candidate's results.

"As with all SQA charges, local authorities meet the costs of requests by public sector schools to use this service.

"National guidance from education directors makes clear that no young person should be denied access to this service on the grounds of cost."

This year's results showed students passed a total of 152,701 Highers in 2016, with an attainment rate of 77.2% - down on the 156,000 passes in 2015 but still the second highest number on record.

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