Statement on Educational Disruption

Responding to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills’ Ministerial Statement today, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson said:

“It was important to hear the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment to take seriously the anxiety that young people have experienced in their education. After two years of educational disruption young people continue to have had their right to education severely limited and this is seriously affecting mental health and wellbeing. We have written to all MSPs ahead of the debate on education tomorrow to highlight the ongoing human rights concerns.

“Crucially, young people need to know what support is in place for them between now and August when the formal appeal process will start. Uncertainty continues to create needless worry and stress for young people who are already feeling the mental strain of a global pandemic and everything that entailed, not least in education.

“The SQA finally published its appeals process and supporting information this afternoon, the complex detail of which will take some time to analyse. Young people have told us that communications from the SQA throughout have been challenging to understand so we would expect that the SQA will directly communicate the detail to young people in an age-appropriate way.

“We understand that our repeated call for a direct appeals process for young people is included and I welcome this as the minimum that young people should expect.

“However, disappointingly the Cabinet Secretary communicated that the appeals process will not include a policy of ‘no detriment’ which means that young people could be downgraded as a result of appealing a grade. This is an unnecessary and disempowering barrier to young people; no-one should have their mark downgraded. The only barrier to making an appeal should be the evidence needed to support it and not the fear of negative consequence as a result of appealing a mark.

“It was not clear from the statement today if the appeals process will take into account young people’s individual exceptional circumstances that have hampered them from being able to evidence their learning in the past year. During the Covid-19 pandemic, there are a number of circumstances that may have affected young people’s ability to demonstrate their attainment. Some may have experienced bereavement, ill-health or have been excluded from a lot of their education by not having access to a device for remote-learning. This needs to be taken into account in a rights-compliant process.

“I’ve already heard from one young person watching the statement who described ‘feeling gutted’ and that the information today had not helped their anxiety. I will be meeting with more young people this evening to hear directly from them about their experiences. Young people have told us time and time again that they do not feel heard and I will be relaying their views and experiences to MSPs with education portfolios ahead of the debate tomorrow.”

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