Monday 10 August 2020

The exam fiasco is the fault of the SNP

The exam fiasco in Scotland was caused by the SNP’s decision to close schools on March 20th. It wasn’t the British Government that decided to close these schools as it has no say on education in Scotland.

If schools had stayed open from March until the summer every pupil in Scotland could have been taught without disruption to their education. They would then have been prepared to sit their exams and the results could have been judged fairly.

The decision to close schools was a mistake. We know this now from the statistics about Covid.

Up until 5th August 2020 only 28 people in Scotland under the age of 44 have died because of Covid.

There have been zero deaths of those under 15.

What is remarkable about Covid is that it is a disease that overwhelmingly kills people who have retired. The number of people between 45 and 64 who have died is only 348.

The risk to children from attending school is almost zero. If only those pupils with severe medical problems had been kept at home, it is likely that no Scottish pupils would have died.

There is of course a risk that pupils might have spread Covid to their parents. But even if they had, the risk to parents under 44 would have been very small indeed. The vast majority of school age parents are less than 44. Those children with parents over 44 could have stayed at home.

There would have been a slight risk that pupils would pass on Covid to teachers. But this risk would have been no more than the risk faced by supermarket workers, who come into contact with far more customers than teachers come into contact with pupils.

It would have been possible to limit this risk still further by saying that those teachers with medical problems and those over 44 could have worked from home.

If the SNP had implemented a plan like this, which they could have quite easily, then the education of Scottish pupils would not have been disrupted at all. Exam results would have been fair and the risk to the rest of the population catching Covid would have been minimal.

The key to saving lives is to protect those who have a reasonably high chance of dying. So long as school pupils had been told to avoid contact with anyone over 44, then their education could have continued without interruption. That it didn’t is the SNP’s fault. They control education in Scotland.

Given that pupils did not sit their exams it was always going to be a matter of guesswork and dubious forms of modelling that determined the result for each pupil.

Teachers were at fault for overestimating the ability of their pupils. This meant that exam results in Scotland would have been grossly inflated if they had not been manipulated downwards by modelling. Inflating exam results helps neither pupils nor anyone else it just makes their studies count for less in the real world. Exam results in schools and universities in Scotland have been inflated enough in recent years without adding a huge Covid related increase that will continue down the years. The SNP after all will not allow a massive fall in results next year or the year after.

It is clearly unjust to judge the individual based on the group. It is wrong to mark down someone because he lives in a certain town or goes to a certain school.  But it is equally unfair to allow an unrealistic “improvement” caused by overly optimistic teachers to give the same mark to someone who is only moderately able as to someone who is very able.

What is to be done? There is no fix that the SNP can make that will remedy this injustice. If they go back to the marks teachers gave, that will be unjust because it will give some pupils better marks than they deserve, if they adjust the marks down using group statistical modes that will be unjust to the individual.

One solution would be to allow every pupil to appeal, but to require them to sit a brief multiple-choice test to determine their real ability. If someone thinks they were unjustly given a B at Higher Maths rather than an A then they ought to be able to do exceptionally well in a mathematical aptitude test. There might be other ways to bring some form of objectivity into the testing process. If I had been running things, I would have required each pupil to sit an online exam in May or for those without computers places could have been found for them to sit exams in the usual way. Everyone after all sits far apart in an exam.

The SNP were always more concerned about having fewer Covid deaths in Scotland than England than the education of our pupils. The reason for this is that they are intent on using Covid to make progress in their journey to independence. For all SNP politicians independence transcends everything including healthcare and education. If you vote for nationalism don’t be surprised when you get nationalists who care more for nationalism than any devolved issue.

The present exam scandal is the result of the Scottish Government being uninterested in education until people start protesting. But let us be absolutely clear education in Scotland is the SNP’s responsibility and therefore the mess that they are in now is only the fault of the SNP.