‘Higher and advanced higher exams will go ahead but with contingency plan in case of cancellation
Scottish National 5 exams will be cancelled next year and replaced with teacher assessments and coursework, Scotland’s education secretary has announced.
John Swinney said going ahead with all senior school exams during the pandemic was “too big a risk”, adding that the decision meant schools could “build an exam diet for highers and advanced highers that is as safe as it possibly can be”.
Those exams would go ahead as usual but “slightly later” in the year and with a contingency plan in place should they also need to be called off, he said. The National 5s are the equivalent of English and Welsh GCSEs.
Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said the announcement was overdue and lessons needed to be learned from this year’s exams debacle, in which Swinney was forced to U-turn and reinstate more than 100,000 exams grades following a furious row over downgrades that disproportionately affected pupils in more deprived areas.
The EIS general secretary, Larry Flanagan, said it was also important that procedures were put in place to manage teacher workload. “This cannot be a situation, especially as schools and colleges are grappling with the challenges of Covid, where excessive additional workload is heaped on to teachers or students by the Scottish Qualifications Authority,” he said.
Eileen Prior, the executive director of the parent organisation Connect, said parents continued to worry about the impact of the pandemic on young people’s education and qualifications as well as their stress levels.
“Moving National 5s to the proposed model of assessment is not an easy option. It will require SQA, Education Scotland and local authorities to work together with schools in the interests of pupils to make sure there is clarity and consistency in the process. Without that coordinated support, this approach will not deliver for schools, pupils or their families,” Prior said.
Opposition parties at Holyrood were split on the decision, with the Scottish Conservatives accusing Swinney of “throwing in the towel” on holding the full set of exams, and Scottish Labour pointing out that the decision had come very late for teachers already working through courses.
In England the Department for Education and Ofqual, the exam regulator, are adamant that GCSEs and A-level exams will go ahead in 2021. The education secretary in Westminster, Gavin Williamson, is expected to shortly announce a three-week delay in the exam timetable and other measures.
Kevin Courtney, a joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said Scotland was right to scrap its exams. “John Swinney’s actions are an example of being contrite and working towards a proper solution. Meanwhile, the Department for Education in England still languishes in a state of denial about this year’s fiasco and persists in blaming others,” he said.
“Gavin Williamson’s failure to act [is] matched with an inexcusable tardiness. Teachers, students and parents in England need to have a much clearer picture of what counts in examinations next year, and what form the assessment will take. This is not the time for dithering.”
What do you think to this? Do you think with everything going on this year that it is a time to stop exams?