Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity (CREID)

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Responsible or active citizens? Young people’s citizenship and the 2020 Scottish Exam results demonstrations

This small scale research project is focused on the school student activism in Scotland during the summer of 2020. It aims to examine how the outcome of this system of calculating exam results influenced some young people’s civic activism and how they mobilised and responded to the downgrading of their projected exam grades.

Background

The Covid 19 pandemic led to the closure of Scottish schools; school students could not sit their final year exams in 2020. Instead, exam results were calculated based on their teacher’s estimates of performance and then these assessments were moderated by a statistically based Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) system. This approach was controversial, as it risked reinforcing existing inequalities in the education system and disproportionately impacting on the most disadvantaged students and schools. The outcome of applying this process of combined teacher assessments  with school performance data inspired a range of civic activism and protests, including self-organised public demonstrations and the lobbying of politicians and decision makers by young people.

Research aims

This small scale research project is focused on the school student activism in Scotland during the summer of 2020. It aims to examine how the outcome of this system of calculating exam results influenced some young people’s civic activism and how they mobilised and responded to the downgrading of their projected exam grades. It will address the following questions:

  1. Why did young people take part in the 2020 SQA exam protests? How did they explain their level of engagement? 
  2. What or who assisted or constrained their participation in this civic activism?
  3. To what extent did young people’s civic activism help develop their political and critical consciousness, including their knowledge of and attitudes towards social justice?
  4. Did teachers facilitate pupil’s civic activism in any way? What do teachers think are the limits or opportunities relating to education for citizenship in schools today?

Who can take part?

  • Young people who are over 16 years of age and took part in the 2020 SQA exam protests. 
  • Secondary teachers who had some direct involvement with these young activist while at school and/or that have an interest in citizenship education and the impact the protests may have on it.

Research approach

This research project will involve individual on line interviews with young people who took any part in the 2020 SQA results protests, as well as secondary teachers who had some direct involvement with these young people while at school or that have an interest in citizenship education and promoting civic activism. This research has received ethical approval from the University of Edinburgh and will adhere to the ethical guidelines set out by British Educational Research Association (BERA).

Why this research is important?

Education for citizenship (EfC) is a key priority in the Scottish education system which aims to encourage young people’s thoughtful and responsible participation in civic and political life, to influence  change and to work towards social justice. This research aims to produce knowledge to help improve citizenship education. This will support the more effective development of young people's political literacy and their propensity for activism to work towards social justice. In so doing we hope this research will make a contribution to promoting and sustaining a vibrant democratic culture in Scotland.

Funder

Gordon Cook Foundation

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