Medical dream 'in tatters' after results downgraded

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image copyrightDavid Biggart
image captionOlivia Biggart got A grades in her prelims but her final results did not reflect what teachers recommended

A straight A pupil's dreams of medical school have been destroyed with the arrival of a single text message.

Olivia Biggart achieved five As in her Higher prelims and was predicted by her teachers to be awarded the same when her results arrived on Tuesday morning.

But despite having spent the summer studying for the University Clinical Aptitude Test (Ucat), she was awarded two As and three Bs.

Olivia, 16, believes she was downgraded because of where she lives.

Scotland's exam results day has been marred by disappointment for thousands of pupils who received worse grades than they had been expecting.

It emerged that exam body the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) had lowered 125,000 estimated grades - a quarter of the total.

Candidates were already apprehensive after official exams were cancelled for the first time in history due to the coronavirus.

Results were worked out using estimates made by teachers, based on the pupil's performance over the school year.

But a national moderation system meant that many pupils received lower grades than originally estimated.

image copyrightDavid Biggart
image captionDavid Biggart believes his daughter would have been awarded different grades if her school was in an affluent area

Many claimed they suffered because they are from less affluent areas.

Olivia's father, David Biggart believes his daughter was one of them. The family lives in Motherwell in North Lanarkshire.

Mr Biggart said: "It is a small school and in a poorer catchment area. Olivia got seven As in her Nat 5 exams. She was in fifth year doing maths, English, chemistry, physics and PE. The school predicted five As and that is what they submitted to the SQA.

"We had increased our expectations based on Olivia's prelims, researching medical schools.

"Olivia has been studying all summer for the Ucat medical test to study medicine at university, but all her dreams are now in tatters as a result of the SQA and their treatment of poorer schools and high achieving pupils at those schools.

"I am absolutely livid at the SQA."

'Devastated for her'

Mr Biggart said he strongly believed it would not be the case if his daughter achieved the same predicted results but went to a school in a more affluent area.

"I called the school and they were devastated for her and the rest of the pupils they felt had been unfairly treated. I worry for those who maybe expected three C grades and were given nothing."

He said: "She got 85% in her maths prelim and her teacher suggested a maths-related career. She has never scored a B in maths. It goes against everything. I feel distraught for her after how hard she worked over the summer."

Olivia told the BBC she was not expecting the results she got.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionMany pupils chose to receive their results electronically on Tuesday morning

She said: "I was not too stressed when I woke up. I thought I knew what to expect. I saw the A for chemistry and thought it was okay but then came the Bs. I was really shocked."

The SQA said its moderation process had ensured "fairness to all learners" and maintained "standards and credibility" in the qualification system.

'Credibility issue'

Asked about the process at her daily briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said: "What we want to make sure is that this year's results have the degree of credibility that means that they are not so out of sync with previous years that people are going to look at them and say 'they don't make any sense'.

"As much as I would love to be in the position of standing here credibly saying that 85% of the 20% in the most deprived areas had passed Higher, given that it was 65% last year, that would raise a real credibility issue."

image copyrightPA Media
image captionEducation Secretary John Swinney said pupils had shown "tremendous resilience"

Education Secretary John Swinney stressed that approximately 90% of moderation "involved a change of just one grade".

He added: "We've maintained the overwhelming majority of estimates that have been put forward by teachers and the changes that have been made are essentially those fine-grained judgments that are required to be made on an annual basis."

He said the SQA would ensure "sufficient resources were in place" for the free appeals process, allowing teachers and pupils to challenge specific results.

SQA chief examining officer Fiona Robertson said it was not possible to determine why the overall estimated grades were higher than previous years, adding: "There may be several reasons why estimates were above historic attainment, which has been relatively stable over time.

"Some teachers and lecturers may have been optimistic, given the circumstances of this year, or may have believed, correctly or incorrectly, that this cohort of candidates may have achieved better grades due to a range of factors."

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