Fresh calls to axe Scottish exams 'in full' next summer

The Scottish Government is facing renewed calls to cancel the Highers and Advanced Highers next year after Wales today scrapped its entire exams diet.

John Swinney is being urged to axe Scots exams "in full."
John Swinney is being urged to axe Scots exams "in full."

The Scottish Greens have said the existing “halfway house” situation in Scotland is no longer sustainable after John Swinney recently announced the National 5 exams would not take place, with classroom assessment instead used to assess grades. But Highers and Advanced highers exams would still be held.

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Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams announced today the GCSE AS and A-levels exams had been cancelled next summer, with grades instead allocated on the basis of teacher assessment.

Greens education spokesman Ross Greer said: “The Welsh Government has taken the only responsible approach by cancelling all 2021 exams. It’s not fair to ask pupils who have missed weeks of class time to sit an exam next May on the same basis as those who have been fortunate enough to avoid any disruption.

“The Scottish Government has so far opted for a bizarre halfway house by cancelling Nat 5 exams, but pressing ahead with Highers and Advanced Highers. It’s becoming increasing clear that this is a mistake which John Swinney should correct immediately.

“The only reliable solution is to cancel the 2021 exams now and grade Highers and Advanced Highers on the same basis as National 5s.

“Assessment based on work throughout the year can take into account whether a pupil has missed substantial periods of time due to self-isolation and removes entirely the risk of exams being cancelled at the last minute, as they were this year.”

Mr Swinney was stung by criticism earlier this year of a system of teacher assessment that was adopted as a result of the exams diet being cancelled in Scotland because of the pandemic.

Many grade estimates allocated by teachers were then overturned by of a controversial “moderation” system, which was implemented by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and took into account the historic results of schools.

This was subsequently axed by ministers when it emerged that youngsters from more underprivileged areas were the most likely to be “marked down” by the system.

But a leading Scots parents group urged Mr Swinney not follow the example of Wales.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said: “Parents know that governments across the UK look to each other and often replicate decisions during this pandemic.

“But the Scottish Government should resist the temptation to follow Wales in cancelling exams outright.

“It’s bad enough that tens of thousands of National 5 pupils will miss out on exams without jeopardising the prospects of others too.

“We’ve had encouraging news this week with the progression of a vaccine, and the Scottish Government should amend its outlook accordingly.

“We’d like to see the education secretary stand up and pledge to parents that Highers and Advanced Highers will definitely go ahead.

“We also believe teachers – without whom schools wouldn’t be able to function during this crisis – should be among the first to be offered a vaccine as and when it becomes available.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said replacing National 5’s made space in the timetable to push the Higher and Advanced Higher exams back until May, which made up some of the lost learning time.

She added: “We will continue to closely monitor public health advice and review arrangements if necessary, with key check-points up to the February break. Clear contingency plans are being developed should the exams have to be replaced for public health reasons.”

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