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Exam results could suffer because of Covid disruption, warns head of one of Scotland’s biggest schools

Fife head teacher Ronnie Ross has 'massive' worries about this year's exam results.
Fife head teacher Ronnie Ross has 'massive' worries about this year's exam results.

Unprecedented Covid disruption could rob young people starting exams this week of deserved grades, fears the head teacher of one of Scotland’s biggest secondary schools.

No S4, S5 or S6 pupil starting the crucial tests this week has ever sat a formal exam – and Ronnie Ross says this school year has suffered the greatest disruption.

The Levenmouth Academy head teacher believes exams should have been cancelled for a third time, following high rates of absence due to the virus among pupils and teachers.

Exams were cancelled in 2020, when this year’s S6 cohort was preparing for National 5s in S4, and again 2021.

Mr Ross said: “I don’t think we should have had exams this year.

Levenmouth Academy head teacher Ronnie Ross. Picture by Kenny Smith/ DCT Media.

“This year has been the most disruptive of all the Covid years because of pupil absence and illness. There were days when we had 25 members of teaching staff off [out of around 112], and that’s disruptive to learning and teaching.”

The number of young people seeking help within his Fife school for stress and anxiety has increased significantly, he said, some of them worried about how they will cope in the tests which will determine their National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher grades.

He said: “I worry that this year, because of the amount of disruption there’s been throughout the year, young people will not get the results I would hope they would get.”

Young people have to go into an assembly hall, open a paper and start an exam – an experience they’ve never had before.”

Head teacher Ronnie Ross

A hybrid system including external assessment verified nationally and relying again on teacher judgement with the ‘robust and rigorous’ moderation conducted last year would have been fairer, he claimed.

“I know the SQA has made adjustments, reducing the amount of content the young people have and giving advice about what will be in the papers,” he said.

“But that doesn’t take away from the fact that young people have to go into an assembly hall, open a paper and start an exam – an experience they’ve never had before.”

‘Significant modifications’

In an attempt to mitigate the disruption, modifications have been made by the Scottish Qualifications Authority to coursework, assessment and exams, with revision support including guidance on content of exam papers.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We understand that this can be an anxious time for learners.

“Significant modifications have been made to exams and coursework to take account of Covid disruption. Pupils have also been able to access a comprehensive package of study and revision support.

Now is the time however to support learners as they finalise their revision, and prepare for their assessments and exams.”

Scottish Qualifications Authority

“Grading this year will look to factor in the impact of the pandemic and a free, direct appeal service will be available for learners who sit an exam and achieve a lower grade than their estimate.”

An SQA spokesperson said: “The decision to proceed with this year’s exams was a matter for the Scottish Government.

“Now is the time however to support learners as they finalise their revision, and prepare for their assessments and exams.

“We wish them the very best as they get ready to demonstrate what they have learned and what they can do.”

Read more about exams:

Search our exams timetable 2022

Could you pass a Nat5 exam? Try our quiz

How are exams conducted around the world

How education bosses think exams should be reformed

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