The Lib Dems have made a direct plea to SNP voters disillusioned with the party in the wake of the “loathed exams algorithm” that sparked last summer’s results scandal.
Willie Rennie said the Scottish Liberal Democrats had plans to reform the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), the agency involved, by putting teachers at its “heart”.
He spoke out on the issue at a time when some secondary school students are undergoing exam-style assessments – despite formal exams being axed for the second year in a row because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The downgrading of results sparked protests from students last summer, forcing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Education Secretary John Swinney to both apologise and restore grades in line with teachers’ predictions.
Mr Rennie said he was “appealing to disillusioned SNP voters with a plan to put teachers at the heart of the SQA”.
The Lib Dem leader insisted: “We need this reform to protect against repeats of the SNP’s exams chaos and John Swinney’s loathed exams algorithm.
“Last summer, Parliament backed up the pupils who were rightly furious at John Swinney and the SQA. They cut everyone else out of the process and ignored months of warnings.
“The SQA still refuses to apologise. It maintains it did everything that John Swinney asked by creating the algorithm that penalised pupils based on their background. That sums up everything that is wrong at the top of Scottish education.”
Mr Rennie continued: “There is a chance for change. In February, Scottish Liberal Democrats took a vote to Parliament and won support for reform of the SQA and Education Scotland. We want to put teachers at the heart of those organisations.
“The SNP will put that result straight in the shredder given the chance. The Greens can’t keep them in check – they’ve bailed John Swinney out before and blocked SQA reform in 2017, meaning it drifted.
“Throughout the pandemic, pupils, teachers and schools have been dedicated and full of good ideas. Our reforms will mean the same can be said of the organisations that are supposed to support them.”