Commenting as pupils in Scotland receive their exam results today, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP said:
"First of all, I would like to say congratulations to everyone receiving results today. You have all worked incredibly hard in circumstances that have never been faced before. You should be very proud of the work that you have put in. We also owe our thanks to all the teachers who have striven to support pupils at this difficult time.
"While some pupils will be rightly celebrating, many more will be deeply disappointed with how the SQA have handled things. We are already seeing pupils, teachers and in some cases, entire classes, complaining that their grades have been dropped dramatically, in many cases turning passes into fails.
"In particular the decision by the SQA to hold back their moderation guidelines until results’ day itself has meant months have been lost in which these guidelines could be scrutinised, understood and if necessary, improved. These are difficult times for any organisation but the SQA's communication with parents, pupils and teachers has been a trainwreck that could have been easily avoided.
"What's more, the reliance on a school's past performance as a guide to moderating results will embed the attainment gap and hurt bright pupils from disadvantaged schools. It appears that the system has been reverse-engineered to get the “right results”.
"Everyone will now be hoping that the appeals process is sufficiently robust to handle the volume of pupils who will now wish to challenge their results."
Ahead of the publication of exam results next Tuesday, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has today warned the Education Secretary about teacher and student anxiety over “unexpected, upsetting or unfair” exam results, as it is revealed schools and colleges have been excluded from the moderation process because of time constraints.
In correspondence with the Education Committee the Scottish Government acknowledged that the SQA has not, as requested by the Committee, been able to engage with schools and colleges in the moderation process, stating:
“There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the difficulty of operating a dialogue which is fair and consistent in its treatment of all centres and candidates. Secondly, it is not possible to enter into a dialogue in the very tight timescales we are working to…”
Shetland’s MSP Beatrice Wishart has welcomed the announcement that a new support fund will be set up to provide help the self-catering businesses who have not yet been given any form of government support.
The new fund will provide grants to self-catering businesses in Scotland with grants of £10,000 to those who have been ineligible so far. This has been announced alongside a support scheme for larger hotels.
Ms Wishart has, alongside colleagues, been petitioning the Scottish Government to recognise the many individuals who, for various reasons, have been deemed ineligible for help with their self-catering businesses during the pandemic.
Shetland’s MSP, Beatrice Wishart, has today pressed the First Minister on the re-opening of adult day care and respite services, following reports that their re-opening has been stalled.
After months of bearing the full burden of care for adults with complex needs, and despite the Scottish Government’s acceptance that services should be able to resume, families are still not able to access the support they need.
Ms Wishart noted that one constituent had told her that “we always get left behind”.
Northern Isles representatives, Alistair Carmichael MP, Beatrice Wishart MSP and Liam McArthur MSP, have today welcomed the announcement of a £100m funding agreement for the Islands Growth Deal, covering both the Northern Isles and the Western Isles and funded equally between the UK and Scottish governments.
The deal represents an award of almost three-times the per capita figure based on other Scottish growth deals. Discussions will now continue towards agreeing a Heads of Terms later this year, along with more detail on the transformational projects which will be funded.
Northern Isles representatives Alistair Carmichael MP and Beatrice Wishart MSP are asking constituents to get in touch with examples of large energy price increases and difficulties with suppliers. The Parliamentarians are gathering evidence of the situation in Orkney and Shetland to demand action from energy suppliers and government on unfair charges and poor customer service.
The move follows representations from constituents who are frustrated with rising costs over the last few years and comes as recent research from comparethemarket that found 72% of households across the UK have seen an increase in their energy usage since lockdown began.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has sought an update from the Scottish Government on when an Islands Growth Deal will be brought forward to help boost the economies of Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles.
Ms Wishart was responding to a statement on the latest employment figures which show Scotland’s unemployment rate rose to 4.3% between March and May and that 736,500 workers have been furloughed.
Today, Shetland’s MSP Beatrice Wishart questioned the Scottish Government on what is being done to ensure access to online learning for those in remote, rural and island communities, as colleges and universities gear up to re-open under a blended learning model.
Ms Wishart noted that Universities Scotland has said that digital poverty will “reinforce disadvantage”, and asked the Minister for Higher and Further Education what will be done for those whose internet speeds “can’t cope” with online learning.
This follows concerns raised by Ms Wishart and Liberal Democrat colleagues about delays to the Scottish Government’s rollout of superfast broadband in the Highlands and Islands.
In response, the Minister for Higher and Further Education agreed that it was an issue that needed addressed, and confirmed that some of the funding announced to address the digital access could help those who are struggling with online access because of rurality.
Responding to the news that the Scottish Government have announced additional funding for four new jobs to develop crofting in the Western Isles, Northern Isles MSPs Liam McArthur and Beatrice Wishart have asked the Scottish Government to “follow that logic through”, and allow for a fully tailored approach to crofting.
A group of Liberal Democrat Highlands and Islands MPs and MSPs have written a joint letter to express their “increasing concern” at the reported threat to the R100 programme for superfast broadband in the Highlands and Islands.
This follows reports that the ongoing legal action taken against the Scottish Government’s handling of procurement for the ‘Northern Lot’, may mean that its European state aid protection could expire before the contract is actually awarded.