7 August 2020

Tuesday was Exam Results’ Day. Except this year there were no exams. Some people are still questioning why the exam diet was actually cancelled when most of the year’s work had been completed, and countries like Germany, France and Italy continued with their exams. So the grades awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) were anxiously awaited by young people and their parents and carers.

Congratulations to all the young people across Shetland who have received results this week. You have faced this most important stage in your lives in circumstances not experienced before.

While many young people are pleased with their grades, there are others who do not understand the grades they’ve received which are lower, in some cases much lower, than expected with predicted passes turning into fails. One parent told me of his concerns for their child who is devastated at their unexpected result.

The grades estimated by teachers were moderated by the SQA with nearly a quarter of results adjusted, mostly downwards. Despite being asked to publish the moderation guidelines, the SQA held them back until Tuesday, and it is now under fire for the way it has handled things. Parliament’s Education Committee hopes to question the SQA as soon as possible. If you would like me to highlight your experience anonymously do get in touch.

Teachers are not to blame, they worked hard to follow the procedures set by the SQA. Teacher workload is already well documented. Now, in the week before schools re-open, with all the preparations that entails, appeals from disappointed pupils are being submitted. It’s important the appeals process is robust to handle the current estimate of around 100,000 expected submissions.

There is an unfairness in what has happened to the class of 2020. The way this situation has been handled should not hinder our young people and their life opportunities, but many parents and young people have expressed their concern that for those who didn’t get the results they expected it will do just that.

Last Thursday at First Minister’s Questions I was able to raise the concerns several families have put to me about the lack of information on the re-starting of adult day care and respite services. Guidance has been slow in coming from government so local authorities have been unable to resume these vital services.

The feeling that many families have is one of always being left to last, and left behind. That our most vulnerable families, with members who have complex needs, feel this way is unsurprising when they tell you of years of having to fight for everything for their children.

The First Minister indicated she would look into the matter. At the time of writing I’ve not received any update.

With a cluster of cases apparently emanating from an Aberdeen pub, and warnings of community transmission, the re-introduction of lockdown restrictions in Aberdeen on Wednesday serves as a reminder that Covid-19 is still very much around. We may not like them, but sticking to the rules is vital.

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