SCHOOL pupils in East Renfrewshire who complained about being given lower grades in their exams because of where they live have won an apology from the Scottish Government.

There was widespread anger after students from less affluent areas were unfairly disadvantaged by a controversial new marking system that replaced this year’s tests.

The country’s exams body, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), lowered about 125,000 estimated grades across the country after considering each secondary school’s past results.

But, yesterday afternoon, Education Secretary John Swinney announced that exam results downgraded by the controversial ‘moderation’ process will now revert to the grades estimated by pupils’ teachers.

He also apologised to pupils affected by the lowering of results and confirmed marks moderated upwards will not change.

One local mum whose daughter goes to Barrhead High has described the way this year’s grades have been handled as “a fiasco.”

The woman, who did not want to be named, told the Barrhead News: “My daughter was in tears after she opened her results last week.

“The whole thing is a mess. It just seemed like pupils at schools such as Barrhead High were being treated differently from those at more affluent schools, regardless of how well they did in their prelims and with their coursework throughout the year.

All exams were cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the results of ‘prelim’ exams and teacher estimates submitted instead.

As part of the moderation process, the pass rate of pupils in the most deprived areas was controversially cut by more than 15 per cent by the SQA. However, the pass rate for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds dropped by less than seven per cent.

Critics said pupils from poorer areas were more likely to have had their results downgraded because their schools may not have fared so well in the past.

Barrhead’s MSP Tom Arthur was among those to have raised questions over the way results had been calculated.

He said: “Like many of my constituents, I have been concerned about the reports on the statistical process used to moderate grades awarded to pupils.

“Our schools are on an upward trajectory and nothing should detract from that.”

Green MSP Ross Greer, who represents East Renfrewshire as part of his West of Scotland remit, also raised concerns about the impact the moderation process had on grades given to Barrhead pupils.

He said: “Barrhead’s schools have worked really hard to improve the chances and opportunities for their pupils and this could have been seriously undermined by a SQA system which reduces the hard work of individual young people to a postcode lottery.”

Around 100 school pupils gathered in Glasgow on Friday to stage a protest against their exam results.

Despite the exams fiasco, there was still good news for many Barrhead pupils.

Barrhead High achieved its best S5 results for pupils sitting three or more Highers and its third highest results for S4 at National 5.

Meanwhile, St Luke’s High recorded a five per cent increase in the proportion of S4 pupils achieving five or more awards at National 5 and its third best result for the proportion of S6 pupils achieving Advanced Highers.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Mr Swinney confirmed he has told the SQA to revert downgraded results to the estimates “based solely on teacher or lecturer judgment.”

“I can confirm to Parliament today that all downgraded awards will be withdrawn,” he added.

“Schools will be able to confirm the estimates they provided for pupils to those that are returning to school this week and next.

“The SQA will issue fresh certificates to affected candidates as soon as possible and, importantly, will inform UCAS and other admission bodies of the new grades as soon as practical in the coming days to allow for applications to college and university to be progressed.”

Mr Swinney added that the backlash from angry pupils and parents had “outweighed” the Scottish Government’s desire to suppress grade inflation.