EIS fears over new Scottish exam appeals process

Pupil writing
Image caption The new national exams are due to come into effect in 2014

Concerns have been voiced that Scotland's exam agency is planning to make it more difficult and expensive to appeal against exam results.

The rules will come when the first set of pupils sit the new National exams which will replace Standard Grades in 2013-14.

The EIS teaching union has urged the SQA to delay the changes until the National 4 and 5 exams settle down.

It said it would be "foolish" to go ahead with the original timetable.

However, the SQA said the changes followed a prolonged period of consultation.

The exams agency added that the move was necessary because under the current system many appeals seemed to be lodged without good justification.

Under the new system, candidates will be able to appeal if there has been an exceptional event, such as a bereavement or an illness.

Schools may also ask to have a paper remarked, but only if they pay a fee. This is expected to be about £50, and would not be refunded if the appeal was unsuccessful.

This will mark an end to the common practice of candidates appealing if they are disappointed with their grades.

The number of appeals has grown significantly over the past decade.

Larry Flanagan, education convenor of the EIS, said there were clear arguments for cutting back the number of appeals.

But he added: "The timing of this is unfortunate to say the least.

"We've said to them it's foolish. If there are any hiccups with the exams system, there needs to be a safety net."

Mr Flanagan also suggested that state schools may be less likely to lodge appeals on behalf of their pupils because of the appeal fee.

An SQA spokesman said: "We've no plans to delay implementation of the new appeals services.

Delay launch

"The detail and the timeline were agreed only after a long and inclusive period of consultation."

Unease over the new exams has increased since BBC Scotland revealed three weeks ago that East Renfrewshire, Scotland's most successful education authority, had decided to delay the launch of the new exams in its schools.

One well placed source told BBC Scotland: "If East Renfrewshire doesn't appear to be confident the launch will be problem-free, there's concern the other education authorities will have even more difficulties."

Education Secretary Mike Russell said his watchdog, Education Scotland, should be able to smooth out any problems.

He has made it clear that he expects other authorities to stick to the official launch date of 2014.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: "We are fully on track to deliver the curriculum for excellence and have made clear that Education Scotland are on hand to address any concerns that schools may have regarding its ongoing rollout."

Individual departments in individual schools can apply to delay, but the Scottish government said they would very much be exceptions.

National 4, the new replacement for Standard Grade General level and Intermediate 1, is not an exam in the accepted sense of the word as marks will be awarded by staff in the candidate's school for work done throughout the year.

National 5 is the replacement for the current Standard Grade Credit level and Intermediate 2.

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