Advice available for abject students

South Ayrshire schools achieved record-breaking figures as pupils received their exam results yesterday, but those who did not have cause to celebrate are reminded that they have the right to feedback.

South Ayrshire pupils’ Advanced Higher results were the best ever this year, with one fifth of those sitting these exams achieving at least one.

Meanwhile nearly 30 percent of fifth-year pupils achieved three or more Highers, and more than 10 percent got five or more, and 99 percent of S4 pupils achieved at least five Standard Grades (or equivalent) at Foundation or above.

Praise for these results was rife yesterday, with Councillor Margaret Toner, South Ayrshire Council’s Portfolio Holder for Lifelong Learning, saying she was “very proud of our young people, their supportive families and our school staff”, while Sandra Osborne MP also issued her congratulations to pupils and school staff.

Commenting on the results and clearing process, Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, also said: “We’d like to say congratulations once again to pupils, teachers and schools across Scotland for a great performance in this year’s Highers.

“Hopefully, many pupils wanting to go to university have met their conditional offers and will now be looking forward to starting their studies in only a month or two.”

But not everyone in Carrick was quite so enthusiatic about their results. One Girvan Academy pupil, who will be returning for his sixth year later this month, said he was disappointed.

With a B in PE, Cs in English, Maths and Computing and an F in Physics, he said he was worried about the effect on his future plans.

“I was a bit upset about some of the results,” he said. “I thought I would do better.

“I think exams are definitely getting harder - this year they were really hard. I want to go to university, but maybe I won’t with these.”

And with the emotional opening of the envelope now over, staff at the Information Commissioner’s Office are reminding students they have access to information that could help ease their minds.

Those who want to know exactly what the examiner thought of their work can request this information under the Data Protection Act, Assistant Commissioner for Scotland Ken Macdonald said.

“We’ve all experienced the excitement and occasional disappointment that the exam season can bring,” he added.

“Having access to information - such as a breakdown of their overall mark and examiners’ comments – may not lead to their grades being altered but it could help them make decisions that impact on their future, such as deciding to re-sit an exam or pursue a particular subject at college or university.

“If examination bodies fail in their legal duty to respond then students can bring a complaint to the ICO and we will look into it.”

Under the Act, individuals have the right to request the information that an organisation holds about them – known as a subject access request.

Once a request is received an organisation generally has 40 days to respond. In the case of exam results, exam bodies must respond within 40 days from the date the results were published or within five months of the request being received - whichever of the two is the earliest.

The ICO’s guidance – ‘Individuals’ rights of access to examination records’ – also outlines how people can access more general information about college or university policies or procedures. This guidance can be found at: www.ico.gov.uk/for_the_public/topic_specific_guides/schools/exam_results.aspx

The ICO has also produced guidance for schools, explaining their responsibilities under the Data Protection Act – including what actions they should take when receiving a subject access request – which can be found at: www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/sector_guides/education.aspx

The Carrick Gazette would love to hear your results day experiences. Did you exceed your expectations, or do you share the concerns of our source for this story? You can get in touch with us via Twitter at @CarrGaz, comment on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CarrickGazette, or find our contact details by clicking on ‘contact us’ at the bottom of our homepage.