THIS week's community column comes from west of Scotland Green Party MSP Ross Greer.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) needs to get its act together fast.

From the moment schools were closed and exams cancelled back in spring I kept a very close eye on the SQA’s alternative plans. By April, I had already raised concerns that the exams authority’s proposed grading system would penalise working class young people for no other reason than where they lived.

The problem was the SQA’s decision to use the previous exam results at a school to ‘moderate’ the estimated grades for each pupil, as submitted by their teachers. In practice this meant young people being graded not on their knowledge and abilities, or even on their own previous performance in exams, but on how their school as a whole had performed in years gone by. It was grading by postcode, nothing more and it was exactly the disaster I had warned of.

READ MORE: Third of Hermitage Academy pupils downgraded in SQA exam results fiasco

When results day came round, thousands of rightly enraged young people, along with their parents and teachers took to streets in protest. The Scottish Greens made it clear to the Government that those grades unfairly moderated down would have to be restored if they wanted our support, which they needed to survive an upcoming vote in Parliament.

Fortunately, we were able to secure that full restoration of grades.

The full extent of the unfairness in the system wasn’t known until recently though. New data has now come to light, showing just how bad it was. Before we negotiated that restoration, Hermitage Academy saw 36 per cent of Highers downgraded, including 11 per cent from a pass to a fail, the highest rate in Argyll and Bute. Meanwhile, private schools saw only 5 per cent of their grades changed from pass to fail.

The Scottish Government is currently planning to press ahead with Higher exams next year, despite calls from teaching unions and the Greens to scrap them in favour of coursework-based assessment. As the coronavirus remains a major issue and continues to disrupt young people’s education, we must ensure that the Government gets things right next year.

Read more news, views and local opinions here