Equity will be central to a decision on Higher and Advanced Higher exams, it was pledged, as it emerged a quarter of senior pupils have suffered Covid-19 disruption.
Pressure is mounting on Education Secretary John Swinney to announce whether the exams will go ahead in May next year.
Exams were cancelled this year due to the pandemic and the 2021 National 5 exams have already been called off to allow schools to focus on Highers and Advanced Highers.
A final decision is due in February, but may be taken earlier.
‘End the uncertainty’
Mr Swinney was urged in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday to “end the uncertainty” now but said he had to consider a “sufficient volume of evidence” before he could come to a conclusion.
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Beatrice Wishart said pupils had had varying experiences of an academic year which was “anything but normal”, with some missing school to self-isolate multiple times.
She said: “As we approach the Christmas break will the cabinet secretary accept that pupils can’t walk into exam halls next year with an equal shot at success?
“Will he end the uncertainty and announce that Higher and Advanced Higher exams won’t go ahead and establish a credible alternative for when pupils and teachers return in the new year?”
Promising that equity would be a key consideration, Mr Swinney revealed that around 75% of S4 to S6 pupils had had no interruption.
Thousands of pupils across Fife and Tayside have missed classes to self-isolate since schools reopened in August.
Mr Swinney said: “The latest evidence I have indicates that about 75% of S4 to S6 pupils have experienced no interruption to their learning in the sense of having to self-isolate or to be affected by Covid in that respect.
“That raises questions.
“Obviously there is continuity of learning can be provided for those young people, and I would expected that to be the case should there be any disruption.
“But I am very acutely focussed on the issue of equity.
“It is material to my decision-making around the Highers and Advanced Highers because I have to be satisfied that every young person, no matter what their experience of Covid is, is able to have access to the full opportunity for learning and teaching and therefore position themselves to be in the best place to perform in any exam diet in the spring.
“I quite appreciate the necessity for early decision-making on this question, but equally I hope parliament will appreciate that I have to be able to look at a sufficient volume of evidence to be able to come to an evidence-based conclusion.”
A survey by the National Parent Forum of Scotland found half of respondents wanted the exams cancelled, fearing their children would not get the grades they deserved.
The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association called for the sitting to be cancelled this week, with general secretary Seamus Searson warning the pressure of exams during the pandemic when so many youngsters had lost out on school time could have tragic consequences.
Support The Courier today.
The Courier is committed to delivering quality content to our communities and right now that’s more important than ever — which is why our key content is free. However, you can support us and access premium content by subscribing to The Courier from just £5.99 a month. Because Local Matters.Subscribe