John Swinney set to announce plans for 2021 school exams after SQA fiasco

Scottish school pupils will find out whether they will be facing normal exams in 2021 as John Swinney is set to make a statement to Holyrood later today. note-0

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 7:00 am
John Swinney is set to announce plans for the 2021 exam diet
John Swinney is set to announce plans for the 2021 exam diet

The education secretary is set to announce plans for the 2020/21 exam diet as well as potential contingency plans for exams should schools be forced to close as they were during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement comes a week after the initial promised publication date of the Scottish Government commissioned report into the exams process written by Professor Mark Priestley, the details of which are expected to be announced by the deputy first minister today.

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The Scottish Government has come under pressure to both cancel the 2020/21 exam diet and ensure it goes ahead by the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Conservatives respectively.

A normal exam diet has been backed by parents group UsForThem Scotland, which pushed for the full return of pupils to schools when blended learning was initially proposed by the Scottish Government, causing another U-turn.

Jo Bisset, organiser for the group, said a normal exam diet was “crucial” to provide normality for students during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

She said: “Schooling must continue as normal, and crucial to that normality is a full exams programme.

“It would be hugely unfair on this generation of children if they missed out on that two years on the trot.

“Running a full exams diet would also spare the Scottish Government the headache we saw at the end of summer with the results chaos.

“Parents will be watching Mr Swinney closely and he must assure them that all exams will go ahead as normal.”

In August, Mr Swinney came under significant pressure to resign following the botched handling of the 2020 SQA results, which saw the Scottish Government perform a U-turn over how pupils received their grades.

Initially, grade estimates provided by teachers in schools were moderated based on attainment from previous years before an outcry saw all original estimates awarded.

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart said that if exams were to go ahead, it must not create more work for teachers than they already face.

She said: “Pupils and teachers deserve long-overdue clarity about what will happen with exams this year. They are reaching the mid-term break, but still don't know what they are being assessed on or how.

"Scotland's teachers work some of the longest hours in the world at the best of times, and all the indications are that their workloads have got heavier still during the pandemic. We need assurances that tomorrow's announcements won't pile more work on them, and that the largely absent Education Scotland will finally step up.

"The education secretary also needs to commit tomorrow to listen to those at the hard end of his decisions. If he had listened to the chorus of warnings earlier in the year, then he never would have dealt August's crushing blow to pupils' ambitions or penalised those from poorer backgrounds."

The time for Mr Swinney’s statement has not yet been agreed, but it is likely to be after 2pm and could come after a potential announcement of more Covid-19 restrictions from Nicola Sturgeon.

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