Scottish Higher and Coronavirus: How Students are Affected

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Coronavirus has impacted exams across the UK and Ireland which are no longer able to take place. In Scotland, Highers are being worked out to very similar process as A-Levels and GCSEs in England.

It’s not ideal for anyone involved and it’s taken some time for the government to make the best out of a bad situation to ensure students are rewarded for their hard work to this point. Of course, the difficulty is the period at which school was cancelled in March, just weeks before some exams were due to start but months for others. Not everyone is on the same page with how much work they’ve completed and the state of their coursework, mock exams, etc. It’s naturally very hard for teachers to work together towards calculated grades – but it’s the only way forward.

So, the basic process is that instead of sitting exams, Scottish students will have their results calculated by teachers based on the year’s work, progress and mock exam results. Teachers must use their professional judgement to work out exam results as objectively as possible.

How are Scottish Highers Grades Calculated?

The Scottish SQA has decided to follow the general UK-wide process of calculating exam results from the existing information that teachers possess. Teachers will assess the current state of work for all students, including coursework, homework and any mock exam results.

Teachers can feed in their experience of students also, there is nothing discluded from the grading. For music, drama and sports, events students have already partaken in will also be factored into the grade. It’s a fairly complex process and each school is likely to use some of their own methods to create their grades. In the event that multiple teachers cover one subject, they will all have to reach a consensus on the grade that they provide.

During the grading process, teachers will have to do two things:

  • Grade students
  • Rank them within each grade boundary

The ranking process is to aid exam boards in creating standard models based on the dispersion of results. Exam-boards will check and regulate results, moderating the decisions of teachers whilst making sure to adjust sets of results to bring them within standardised limits. This helps to adjust grades where teachers are found to be too harsh or too generous.

Like in England, Wales and Ireland, these grades will have to be submitted by teachers on before the 29th of May.

This process will apply equally to National 5, Higher and Advanced Scottish Highers courses.

When is Results Day?

Results day stands to be on the 4th of August as it usually would but some exam boards are considering advancing results to give students longer to think about their future education options.

Are the Results Credible?

Some students are wondering about the legal status of results or whether they’ll carry the same merit as usual and the answer here is yes. Universities are well aware of what is going on – you will not need to complete your units for conditional offers to stand. Any works in progress will be disregarded when calculating your grade. If, however, you are unsure of what your school and teachers are including in their calculations, you must ask them. Schools are being encouraged to be open and transparent with students about the process and what they can expect.

What about Resits and Appeals?

Not all students have received this news well and that’s fair enough as students work in different ways. Some will work steadily throughout the year, or may even dislike exams whilst excelling in coursework. Others will go for an all-out effort during exam period. Teachers are well aware of this too, leaving some in a predicament where existing work is probably not up to the standard of potential exam results.

In the event you feel you’ve been hard done by your results, appeals will likely be possible after results day but there’s no official stance on this yet. In the appeal process, students will be able to ask examination boards to moderate and recalculate their grade.

The only other option is to resit. Resits should happen in autumn 2020 or summer 2021. The aim is to get out autumn resit results by Christmas. It is possible that some universities will hold your place for delayed entry if you need to resit but you should consult with admissions first. Universities are being encouraged to be flexible here but you should always ask admissions for their policies.