Teachers will face the greatest pressure of their careers during the coming weeks, a local union representative has warned.
Schools are entering the final term for assessment of pupils working towards National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications.
With just over 10 weeks left to the Scottish Qualifications Authority’s deadline for provisional grades, teachers will be pulling out the stops to give their students the best chance of the marks they deserve.
But with exams cancelled and results based on teachers’ judgement, David Farmer, of the Educational Institute of Scotland’s Fife branch, said secondary school staff will be under unprecedented pressure.
Fife teachers returned to work on Monday after the Easter holidays for the final push of the 2020/21 academic year, and their counterparts in Dundee, Angus and Perthshire will return on Monday.
They taught pupils remotely from January until the phased return, which saw secondary pupils back in school part-time from March 15.
Over the coming weeks pupils will sit a series of tests and assessments in place of exams.
Mr Farmer, EIS Fife publicity officer, said: “The workload pressures for the next few weeks are going to be greater than they have ever been on any group of teachers in Scotland.”
Although advised not to by the union, many teachers will work extra hours to ensure their pupils complete coursework and are assessed properly, he said.
“I don’t really see how teachers are going to be able to address the issues around SQA assessment in secondary schools in their nationally-agreed 35-hour weeks,” he said.
“Our advice to members will be to stick to their contracted hours but we are mindful that members may well not stick to their these hours, in order to get these tasks done.”
The workload pressures for the next few weeks are going to be greater than they have ever been…”
David Farmer, EIS Fife
He also questioned the alternative assessment model produced by the SQA and said there was surely a “more equitable and less pressured system”.
Amid concerns about the impact of this burden and the wider pandemic on teachers, he also said the union was ready to support those whose mental health suffers.
He said: “We will be asking any members who have issues around their wellbeing to contact us or the EIS nationally for support and counselling.
“We don’t have any hard, collated evidence of how members have been impacted in terms of mental health and wellbeing by the pandemic, but anecdotally we are aware that teachers, like those in other work situations, have been impacted by the lockdowns and some of the situations that have arisen in schools in that period from August to December.”
The Scottish Government has pledged a one-off payment of £400 teachers critical to assessing and marking national qualification courses, in recognition of the additional workload.
An SQA spokesman said: “We fully appreciate that this is a challenging time for teachers and lecturers across Scotland and we thank them for all their hard work and commitment to their learners.
“The National Qualifications 2021 Group, which includes the EIS, has co-created this year’s alternative certification model.
“The group has been clear that there is no requirement to replicate a full formal exam or prelim diet this year and that results need to be based on demonstrated attainment by assessment in a flexible way to suit local circumstances.
We fully appreciate that this is a challenging time for teachers and lecturers across Scotland…”
“SQA has provided a flexible and consistent framework for schools and colleges this year, including detailed guidance, material and support, based on assessment standards that teachers and lecturers are familiar with.”
Anxious pupils have already spoken out about assessments they say are exams in all but name.
A petition launched by Baldragon Academy pupil Deni McGurty, 16, calling for a rethink of the system has gathered 7,500 signatures.