Among those who will be impacted by cancellation of the National 5 exams next year is Saif Azzam, a fourth year pupil at Bell Baxter High School.
The fifteen-year-old said: “In a way I think it is a good thing that they have been cancelled because there is not so much immediate pressure.
“Estimating the grades on our coursework is a lot more effective as it can show improvements and you can get second chances.”
Saif was also pleased schools had re-opened full time for all pupils, admitting he found it easier to learn there than at home.
He added: “It’s great. For me, I feel like I learn better because of the one-on-one with the teacher and it’s better for the morale because you are with your friends.”
However, his mum Hilary Lumsden was more cautious in her reaction, admitting she has her concerns about potential long-term impact of the decision, which will see Higher and Advanced Higher exams go ahead a fortnight later than originally planned.
She said: “The main worry is you have to go from this to sitting Highers this time next year.
“That’s a big call for these kids that have already been through a huge disruption to their learning and are then faced with the biggest exam that probably most of them will sit.
“Not having the experience of sitting in a hall and having to have learnt the curriculum, I think that will disadvantage a lot of them.”
She added: “I know it’s not easy for the decision makers but I don’t understand why they can’t have a complete diet of exams.
“I accept that it’s right to prioritise Highers but I would have expected them to either cancel the lot or instead go-ahead with them.
“It’s almost as if they are saving up an even bigger problem for next year.”
Hilary was also concerned about the extra pressure on teachers who are having to deal with the new safety regulations alongside teaching pupils.
She explained: “We were already down on teachers even before Covid struck, so the burden on teachers now is massive.
“What they are trying to deal with in terms of Covid alone and everything they need to do from a health point of view is always taking away the focus from learning.
“The more you take away the support from the classroom, the worst it is for the kids. I have a son who is in third year and I think it’s quite damaging for them.”
Head teacher Ruth McFarlane said some pupils would be disappointed at missing out on exams but that outcome was a “good decision for education”.
Ms McFarlane, of Queen Anne High School, in Dunfermline, is part of the BOCSH group of head teachers who called for cancellation or shortening of all exams in 2021.
She said most teachers would have wanted their pupils to sit exams but added: “The reality is it’s public health, it’s safety and there’s been an element of disruption up to now.
“In terms of equity I think it’s good to have that decision and that knowledge so we can all plan appropriately and support pupils.”
Pupils from Queen Anne High School were involved in a Zoom discussion with Education Secretary John Swinney last week, ahead of his statement.
There will be an element of disappointment but what comes through loud and clear from young people is that they also understand the context.”
Head teacher Ruth McFarlane
Ms McFarlane said: “Probably most of our pupils would have wanted to sit an exam because they do work very hard for their exams and they want that sense of achievement that they have earned that result.
“There will be an element of disappointment but what comes through loud and clear from young people is that they also understand the context.”
She also said she hoped families would feel confidence that young people’s grades will reflect their ability and efforts and teachers would be assured their judgements were trusted.
She said: “Last year was very much reactionary. The tight scale that everybody was working to, it put the SQA under huge pressure, it put the government under huge pressure, schools felt under pressure.
“I would hope we have got from now right through to March, April to work with young people to put in robust assessment to make sure that assessments are moderated, that there is rigorous quality assurance.”