HERMITAGE Academy had more pupil grades lowered by the Scottish Government’s exams body than any other school in Argyll and Bute during this summer’s results fiasco, according to new data.

Students at the Helensburgh secondary were among the worst affected in the country by the moderation scandal, with more than a third of grades lowered by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

After last term’s exam diet was cancelled for the first time in history, the SQA issued grades using an algorithm based on past school results which unfairly disadvantaged pupils who attended schools with lower historical records.

Grades were raised again after a fierce backlash from pupils, teachers and parents forced the SQA into a U-turn in August.

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However, data released to The Ferret website and our sister paper, the Sunday National, shows how each school was affected.

More than a tenth of all Highers at Hermitage Academy were changed from pass to fail, while only 2.3 per cent of grades were adjusted up, compared to 36.2 per cent which were adjusted down.

At Lomond School, just 6.9 per cent were changed from pass to fail and 21.4 per cent were adjusted down.

Analysis by University of Glasgow academics for The Ferret showed at schools where 40 per cent or more of pupils received free school meals, the average Higher grades were marked down from pass to fail by more than 20 per cent. For schools with the fewest youngsters getting free school meals, the figure was nine per cent.

The university’s Barry Black said: “It is important to remember that downgraded results were due to the past attainment of a pupils’ school and not any aspect of their individual performance.

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“The goal now must be to learn from this period and re-imagine how we go about closing the educational attainment gap in Scotland – and never again formalise it.”

The SQA had “no regret” about their system and insisted it had narrowed the attainment gap.

A spokesperson told The Ferret: “Following the cancellation of the 2020 exams, SQA was commissioned by the Scottish Government to develop an alternative certification model, based on teacher and lecturer estimates, to maintain standards over time.

“Given the estimates we received, we considered some moderation of teacher estimates was necessary, however almost three quarters of estimates were unchanged.”

Scottish Green Party MSP Ross Greer said: “These figures reveal just how unfair this system was, just as the Scottish Greens had warned of for months.

“Pupils at Hermitage Academy and across the country were treated like statistics rather than people and judged more on their postcode than their abilities.

“There is no excuse for this to happen again.”

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Helensburgh’s MSP Jackie Baillie said: “There seems to be no end to the shambles surrounding the Scottish Government’s handling of this year’s SQA results.

“It is completely unacceptable that hardworking pupils had their results downgraded to a far greater extent than for pupils from wealthier areas.

“Their future prospects were put into jeopardy because of an ill-thought out algorithm that held postcodes in a higher regard than the advice and experience of Scotland’s teachers.”

The Scottish Government said next year’s results will reflect a pupil’s work, rather than statistical models for their school.

They added: “We will look to learn lessons from the process this year that will help to inform any future actions.”

In nearby Dumbarton, 30.1 per cent of all Highers at Dumbarton Academy were marked down from teacher estimates. A total of 17.3 per cent were reduced from pass to fail.

Our Lady and St Patrick’s High saw their results reduced by 19.7 per cent and 6.4 per cent were failed. And 16 per cent of Vale of Leven Academy results were marked down, with one in 10 reduced to fail.

Clydebank schools were even harder hit, with 39.2 per cent of St Peter the Apostle results marked down, and 44.3 per cent of Clydebank High results down, one of the worst figures across Scotland.

Only a small fraction of results were marked up by the SQA from teacher estimates, with Vale of Leven Academy faring best, at 4.4 per cent of results. The SQA U-turn did not affect youngsters who saw better grades from the system.

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