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Education / Education chair has faith in judgement of teachers for next year’s grades

THE CHAIRMAN of Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) education and families committee says the local authority remains “confident in the expertise and professional judgement of our teachers” when it comes to grades for pupils next year.

Councillor George Smith said the SIC is confident in teachers’ “ability to work within whatever framework is set by the Scottish Qualifications Authority [SQA]”.

National 5 exams will again not take place in 2021, with grades to be based on “teacher judgement supported by assessment”.

Highers and advanced highers, however, are set to go ahead.

Meanwhile figures released by the SQA on the number of higher grades changed by the controversial exam moderation system this summer have shed more light on the effect it had on Shetland schools.

Education and families committee chairman George Smith.

In the absence of exams due to the pandemic, the SQA used an algorithm based on past school results to moderate teacher assessments in an attempt to ensure they were comparable to previous results.

Following a backlash the SQA performed a U-turn and revised downgraded results back to the teacher estimates.

Both the Anderson and Brae high schools saw 18.8 per cent of higher grades initially adjusted downwards.

In Shetland, 640 of the 2,492 national 5, higher and advanced higher grades were changed.

Nationally schools in poorer areas were found to be more likely to have had grades downgraded through the moderation system.

We are aware of the disproportionate affect that the national moderation process has had on pupils from more deprived areas,” Smith said.

“The methodology and algorithms used, which placed too great an emphasis on historical attainment data, affected a number of learner’s awards, including some students in Shetland.

“This methodology is not going to be used in the certification model for National 5 this year.”

Smith said looking ahead the council has faith in teacher assessments as National 5s continue to be cancelled.

“We are always seeking to improve validity through quality assurance and moderation and central officers are reflecting on data from last year,” he added.

“However, the focus now must be on this year’s pupils and supporting teachers to respond to the changes that will continue to emerge over the coming weeks,” the councillor said.

“Central officers continue to be represented on national groups where there are ongoing discussions to further enhance the quality assurance and moderation processes and clarify the roles of the SQA, local authorities and schools as the whole system continues to respond to the challenges of Covid.

“We are seeking a system where every individual pupil receives the awards that they deserve and one which is consistent across every school in the country.

“Subject development groups are meeting during in-service and will begin to look at course specific information being released by the SQA over the coming week.

“Senior phase moderation will be a key focus throughout this school year. The local authority and staff in schools are doing a great job in keeping schools open and continuing to deliver education to our children and young people under challenging circumstances.”