The extent to which this report attempts to mislead is hard to take in a quality newspaper

By Alasdair Galloway

The extent to which this report attempts to mislead is hard to take in a quality newspaper. There is no attempt to compare apples with apples, instead it’s any comparison that talks the outcome down.

For instance right at the top:


The 2021 National 5, Higher and Advanced rates, based on attainment at grades A to C, were 85.8 per cent, 87.3% and 90.2%, respectively. This compares with a 2020 National 5 pass rate of 88.9%”

So a comparison of “National 5, Higher and Advanced” this year with “National 5” last year. For the record, National 5 is a progression toward Higher, it’s at a lower level and not every pupil achieving Nat 5 will go on to get a Higher.

The truthful comparison is this The percentage of pupils achieving A to C grades in their Highers fell from 89.3% in 2020 to 87.3% in 2021. But that total is still significantly above the 75% pass rate from 2019, and a record high number of awards overall. So, not from 88.9% to 85.8%, but, for Highers from 89.3% to 87.3%.

Fluctuations in results are only to be expected year on year – we are after all talking about different cohorts of students in a very exceptional year. That variation is, though, seldom an excuse for the ranting of the Unionist opposition parties, which is well represented on this thread.


But really Herald, your job, is it not, is to report not provide ammunition for a certain group of politicos.

12 thoughts on “The extent to which this report attempts to mislead is hard to take in a quality newspaper

  1. I take issue, with your use of the adjective ‘quality’ with respect to The Herald. The line which is being pursued here is identical with that being pursued by BBC Scotland and was exactly the line adopted by Creepy Ciaran Jenkins in his report for Ch4 News.

    On Ch4 the results for Scotland were dealt with separately from those for England, Wales and NI. The report, mainly focussed on England, but was headed and framed positively – more students geting top grades. When it switched to Scotland the ridiculous Jon Snow opened with ‘pass rates fall in Scotland’. Then Creepy Ciaran gave us his poison.

    Increasingly the audiences in the rest of the UK are being fed the “Scotland is bad” line which the media in Scotland have been using since 2013. Clearly, they are rattled that more people in England are sanguine about Scotland leaving the EU and the perception of the FM in England and internationally, is much more positive than that of Johnson, Starmer et al. Both the BBC and Channel 4 have been threatened by the Tories, so they are meekly doing their masters’ bidding. The UK press – including the smug Guardian – are all hostile to Scotland. Indeed, in the New Statesman the possible alliance between the SNP and Greens was presented in hysterical McCarthyite language – “The Greens are ….. SOCIALISTS!!!!”. This prospect is appalling, apparently to the readers of a journal which claims to be… socialist or social democratic.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I think I was referring to their judgement rather than my own 🙂
      In any event should a nation not have at least one quality daily? If not them then perhaps the Record …… Aye ok, maybe not.

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      1. Indeed, we do deserve a quality press and, during my lifetime there have been spells when both The Herald and the Scotsman provided that. In particular there was a long period prior to Andrew Neil becoming editor that the Scotsman was producing top quality stuff with writers like Ian Bell Neal Ascherson, Ruth Wishart, a young Lesley Riddoch, a young Ian MacWhirter (how has he become such a sour right wing nasty?) and many more. After Neil arrived, many of them moved to the Herald and it revived its fortunes.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Point taken in your reply to Alasdair M. above Alasdair G. I would dearly love to reproduce this for my political page on Fb., but the words “quality” & “Herald” in the same sentence would be digitally tin-canned by our subscribers and detracted from an otherwise excellent point. To take this a degree further, the answer lies in the birth of and long-term sustainability of The National. Newsquest own both and in turn are owned by an American parent Company who boast being the World’s largest regional newspaper owners. There’s no doubt in my mind that The H has gone further Unionist simply to maximise sales for Newsquest whilst catering for both them and us.

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  3. Good teardown, the Scottish results are highly commendable after what has been a disruptive two years.
    Yet Alasdair Macdonald’s point also hits the nail squarely on the head, this is but the latest in a string of coordinated campaigns to present Scotland anything in a negative light.

    The Herald and C4 are clearly following the HMS Sarah Smith attack line John highlighted earlier, still being kept alive as of this morning in prime position on their Politics page
    – Comments now closed but prominently featuring the dial-a-mob brigade tearing SNP etc to pieces as always.
    – 3 Feeds to further BBC articles bemoaning the Scot’s condition.

    Your final comment however, “But really Herald, your job, is it not, is to report not provide ammunition for a certain group of politicos”, is quite incorrect, that is INDEED their job.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The Herald is not a ‘quality’ newspaper. It is just a distortion of the truth in practically every report. Just a complete fallacy of any justification of credibility. Few people read or support it. 30,000 readers. The majority support Independence. 75%

    No wonder no one buys it or reads it. A minority. It is just a wind up. A click bait for revenues. Ground hog day at the Herald. So boring and unprofessional. Why people bother is a mystery. Have they nothing better to do.

    Scotland has one of the best education systems in the world by far. Totally supported by the Scottish Gov and the people, That is why the majority of the electorate vote SNP/Independence. They want it to be even better. Without Scotland being drained of funds by Westminster unionist conspiracy, dishonesty and lies. Destroying education systems worldwide, leading to poverty and death.

    Newsquest makes revenues by printing Gov contracts and literature for private education worldwide. The newspaper industry is a sideline. Shares negative and debts. The headlines are laughable. Quite shocking in their inaccuracy. Most people see through them and are offended.

    The false reports do not accurately reflect people’s lives or experience. Irrational and non reflective. People are too highly educated to be impressed with the lies and inaccuracies. They share information and experience on the internet. To repute the lies, lack of information and inaccuracies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The online comments on Herald are almost always appallingly anti=Scottish. Almost worse than the BBC. I now avoid looking at the Herald or anything connected with it for the sake of my mental health.

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  5. Actually to a neutral observer , the Scottish results look to be more reliable than the English/Welsh /N.I ones .
    The ”drop” in pass rate ( albeit small) in Scotland perhaps indicates the more honest approach taken by Scottish schools in their assessments of their own pupils’ work .
    Whereas in rUK , using the same internal assessment method pass rates went UP !
    Also , Private Schools in England had ”better” pass rates than the State schools , which in my mind compromises their authenticity a little .

    I have every confidence that the Scottish results were in no way inferior to the rUK regardless of the poisoned style of reporting by the ”neutral ” MSM .

    Liked by 1 person

  6. In the South private schools are giving pupils inflated results. The next scandal supported by the Tories. Concerning university access for less talented individuals, who cannot cope so successfully. Leading to higher drop out rates. A waste of public monies and facilities. Westminster unionist wasteful corruption of public funding.

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    1. With regard to the ‘drop’ in ‘pass rates’ in Scottish Certificate of Education assessments, I think that the reason can be explained by the fact that there has been a reasonably effective moderation procedure in place since the start of the session.

      In 2019/20, because of the epidemic and the uncertainty in how to deal with it, many of the moderation systems which had, up to then operated effectively for many years, were not able to be applied. Most of these, usually, have been applied towards the end of the school session, when the bulk of teaching has been done, but, because of lockdown they were not done. The system since its inception has always included teacher assessments and, generally, teachers tended to be more ‘generous’ in their gradings, but most of them were consistent in this and the moderation procedure took it into account. A few teachers tend to be ‘over-strict’, but, as long as that is done consistently, it too can be taken into account. The problem is the teachers whose assessments are inconsistent. It is a small number, but, unfortunately, a larger number than most lay people understand. The moderation procedures both inside and external to schools, usually solve this by have assessments reviewed by other teachers and brought into line. Again, this is something which, of necessity, has to be relatively shortly before the examinations (so that assessments are being made on the bulk of the syllabus.) In March/April and May of 2020, schools were closed for long periods and this was not carried out, and teacher grades were accepted without checking.

      It can be seen from the report that the SQA produced (as it has always done) that teacher estimates, across the board, were significantly higher than had been the pattern for previous years.

      It had been hoped that the statistical procedures which the SQA had used historically, would have, at least, partially, corrected for this. Unfortunately, the historic trends of results, which were part of the procedure, favoured schools in the more affluent areas, and, consequently, students from schools in less affluent areas were reassessed downwards. The historic trends aspect in a normal year would have been insignificant, because students would have sat an exam which was externally marked so the actual student work was being judged, whereas, the historic trends aspect was dealing with schools, which are not people. Students were being downgraded not on their actual performance but on the average performance of their predecessors at the school in the previous 3/5 years.

      So, it was right to award the students the teacher estimates, even though it was likely some were overestimates, but there was no way of identifying which.

      In 2020/21, having learned from the problems the previous year, the SQA and schools had built in moderation procedures which meant that teacher estimates were nearer to what was a fair assessment of each student’s capability. Teachers and the SQA have always operated on the principle of ‘giving the student the benefit of the doubt’ and that is a good position to take. With a ‘normal’ assessment and moderation system the degree of doubt is curtailed. If it appeared that someone had not been given the benefit of the doubt, there was an appeals procedure which allowed for other evidence to be submitted.

      Although the SQA report on the diet has yet to be published, my view is that the moderation procedure – which actually gives the Scottish results more credibility than those in the other three nations – has done its job.

      However, the media and opposition politicians do not want to know that.

      Finally, the SQA is not a body detached from the real world. The majority of those who do the work for the SQA are teachers in schools and the majority of those in permanent SQA posts are fully qualified teachers with substantial school and FE college experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Headline: ‘Scottish results day: Record high for A grades as pass rate falls’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-58150287 )

    Does the headline bring together two facts of broadly equal statistical or other significance? Hardly, as the extract from the article below the headline reveals.

    ‘The percentage of pupils achieving A grades HIT A RECORD HIGH this year as the pass rate for Scottish school qualifications DROPPED SLIGHTLY.’ (my emphasis)

    And: ‘The percentage of pupils achieving A to C grades in their Highers fell from 89.3% in 2020 to 87.3% in 2021.” So a fall between 2020 and 2021. Presumably that is the ‘slight ‘fall?

    And then: ‘But that total is still SIGNIFICANTLY ABOVE the 75% pass rate from 2019, and a RECORD HIGH IN AWARDS OVERALL.”

    Kind of puts the ‘pass rate falls’ headline message into context?

    Why not this headline? – “ Scottish results day: record high in awards overall’ . Too unequivocally positive?

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