School exam appeals drop after change to system

Boy doing exam paper

There has been a large drop in the number of appeals to the Scottish exams agency after a major change to the system.

Schools now face an administrative fee if an appeal fails while it is possible for a candidate to end up with a poorer grade.

Fewer than 8,500 requests were made this year to re-mark a paper or check the marks.

Only about a quarter actually led to the candidate's grade being changed.

The number of appeals had risen significantly in recent years.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority believes the changes - which coincided with the replacement of Standard Grades with new National 4 and 5 qualifications - are working and enjoy broad support from teachers and lecturers.

A total of 8,448 requests were made to either check how the marks were added up or re-mark the paper completely.

Just over 2,000 of these led to marks being changed - most of them were improved but a small number ended up with a lower grade.

A priority scheme is also in place for candidates whose university place depended on their results.

Borderline results

The SQA believes the fact few grades were changed demonstrates that the system overall is working well.

The appeals process is now known as the Post Results Services and is designed to allow schools and colleges to challenge borderline results using their professional knowledge of a candidate's performance through the year.

In the past, there was no risk of a candidate receiving a lower mark. If an appeal fails, the school is charged a fee - around £10 for adding up the marks and £30 for re-marking a paper. The fee is designed to help deter schools from putting in purely speculative appeals.

Dr Janet Brown, SQA chief executive, said "We take our responsibility to uphold the high standards of Scottish qualifications very seriously and have put systems in place to ensure the assessment of qualifications is high-quality, rigorous and meets national standards.

"We are continually working to improve our systems and processes to reduce the number of requests each year. As e-marking becomes the norm, there will be a significant increase in automated processes. Traditionally-marked papers benefit from a range of checks before we publish results and many of these procedures will continue to be enhanced."

Another change is designed to make it easier to help candidates who fall seriously ill or who suffer a traumatic experience such as the death of a close relative.

The new "exceptional circumstances" safety net means schools can now provide evidence in support of a candidate before the exams results are published.

This means that they should now receive the grade they were entitled to straight away. In the past, a straightforward appeal would have had to be made afterwards.

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