Calls for Scottish Highers exam cancellation evidence to be published

John Swinney and the Scottish Government have been challenged to release evidence behind their decision to cancel exams and on the processes in place to stop a repeat of the 2020 results fiasco.

Pressure group Us For Them Scotland, which claims to represent 12,000 parents, called on the education secretary to release information around guarantees for standardisation of assessment and the level of consultation with universities and employers on the credibility of the new assessments.

The group said Mr Swinney must also outline what lessons had been learned from this year’s chaos, which led to a major U-turn following a backlash against more than 125,000 results being downgraded based on a statistical model, leading to teacher estimates being awarded instead.

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Analysis: Exams decision may have come too late to save John Swinney's blushes
The Scottish Government is being asked to release information linked to the decision to cancel exams.

It is understood there are no plans for a similar statistical model to be used in 2021, with the focus for all qualifications to be on teacher judgement and internal and SQA “quality assurance”, including sampling of the evidence provided by teachers.

Jo Bisset, organiser for Us For Them Scotland, said: “The decision to cancel exams may have pleased the unions and politicians, who have no interest in the rigour of our education system, but it’s infuriated parents.

“As a matter of urgency the Scottish Government must now set out, in detail, how this new approach will be beneficial to pupils.

“John Swinney has to show parents that their child’s education prospects will not be harmed by this U-turn and that whatever replaces exams will be credible and fair.

“This must happen before Christmas – the education secretary has taken the decision to scrap exams, it’s now 100 per cent on him to prove the alternative is going to work."

Nicola Sturgeon, speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, said the decision to cancel exams was made due to concerns of the impact of Covid-19 on pupils forced to self-isolate, a direct casualty of opening schools during a pandemic.

The First Minister said: “When young people are out of school even when it is blended learning, there is a risk that they are at a disadvantage to those who have been in school for all of the time, particularly where young people might have had to self-isolate on more than one occasion.

"When we have looked at the data and the details of this, we think that disproportionately is affecting young people in deprived areas, so it is a recognition of that.

"None of this right now is perfect, none of this is what we would be choosing to do in an ideal world, but we are trying to reach judgements that are as fair as possible for the majority of people.

“And when we are talking about young people’s education I think it is more important than on anything else and we will continue to work through the Education Recovery Group to make sure we are taking all the appropriate steps to minimise, as far as we can the disruption to young people’s education.”

Final details as to how schools will be expected to assess pupils will be finalised and released by the SQA and the Scottish Government in coming weeks, it is understood.

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