Teachers label new marking system ‘abhorrent’, MSPs told

The Education Committee has been holding focus groups with the profession on measures brought in after exams were cancelled.

Teachers taking part in a focus group held by a Holyrood committee have described the marking system brought in amid the coronavirus crisis as “abhorrent”, MSPs have been told.

SNP MSP Gail Ross, a member of the Education and Skills Committee, put the comment to the head of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) on Friday.

While acknowledging the teachers’ view, Fiona Robertson insisted the body has received positive feedback from teachers on the changes.

The committee has been holding focus groups with teachers to canvass views on the education sector’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Under emergency plans brought in as Scotland went into lockdown, exams were cancelled and teachers were called upon to provide estimated grades for pupils based on past coursework and their experience with the child.

Teachers were then asked to rank pupils to help inform their grades, something one submission to the committee said was the “main concern” of the teaching profession.

Ms Ross said: “A focus group that we held at the start of the week said the system of ranking their students was ‘abhorrent, repulsive and goes against the values of teaching’.”

Asked to give her response, Ms Robertson said: “I have to acknowledge the comments that have been made by the teachers in your focus group but I think it’s also important to acknowledge feedback we’ve had from teachers across a number of schools.

“They are working hard to deliver on that with the understanding of why we’ve asked them to do it.”

Ms Robertson said there has been engagement with schools on the matter since the new guidance was announced.

She added: “For teachers who have been involved in teaching for a number of years, ranking was a feature of the system previously so it’s not new to Scottish education.”

Liberal Democrat MSP and committee member Beatrice Wishart said another focus group participant said they regarded the practice as “unacceptable”, adding that it went against the values of the Scottish Government’s flagship Curriculum for Excellence.

Ms Wishart also questioned who the new system benefits, saying it appears to be more of use to the SQA than pupils and teachers.

She asked Ms Robertson if “the SQA know what the results are going to be and are reverse-engineering a system to get there?”.

Ms Robertson said she did not accept the accusation from Ms Wishart, and added her focus is on the interests of pupils.

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