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Devastated Paisley NHS worker claims SQA 'downgrade' has cost her dream nursing career

An NHS call handler who directed support to coronavirus patients during the pandemic has had her dream of becoming a nurse dashed following the SQA results scandal.

Lauren Rooney was due to start a nursing access course at West College Scotland next month.

But her dreams were dashed on Tuesday when the SQA awarded her a D in Higher English.

The 20-year-old’s tutors at the Paisley campus predicted she would get a C.

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She got the bad news just after a night shift at an NHS 24 call centre.

She said: “I’m devastated.

“ I really needed the C to get into college.

“I left school in 2016 and travelled so this was the start of my nursing career.

“It’s so daunting not knowing what the next stage is.”

PAISLEY DAILY EXPRESS: Live news as it happens

Lauren’s English grade is among thousands across Scotland being questioned after the SQA confirmed students’ past work and predicted grades were slashed purely because of where they live.

The exam body - which this year had to find a new way of grading students performance in absence of the usual exams - controversially also looked at each school’s previous history of results.

This downgraded the pass rate for the poorest pupils by 15.2 per cent, but only 6.9 per cent for children in living in wealthier postcodes.

“The fact that tutors predicted me a C but SQA gave me a D is crazy,” Lauren said.

“I was expecting a C as a minimum.

“My prelim was a C and I had a portfolio that might have bumped it up to a B.”

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The Paisley student, who was inspired to become a nurse after working with medics at NHS 24, said she couldn’t believe the covid crisis – in which she worked to help people - had cost her her career.

“Even before the pandemic, working with the nurses is what pushed me on to go and do Higher English and apply for nursing.

“It was quite stressful at the start of the pandemic, but then they opened the covid helpline and there were more covid call handlers.”

Lauren now joins the hundreds of students from across Renfrewshire who are waiting to see if the appeal for their grade is upheld.

She added: “My college tutor has put my appeal through as a priority because I have the offers to go to West College Scotland and a second at Glasgow Clyde College.

“But I don’t know how long that process will take and the college courses will be starting soon.

“If I can’t get a C, I will have no other options for nursing
left.”

John Swinney, the Scottish education secretary, said that without the SQA adjusting grades, the number of passes based on school recommendations would have been exceptionally high.

He argued the system used was appropriate and said the SQA had been given additional resources to deal with huge number of appeals that were expected to be submitted this year.

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