News all exams are off for Scottish pupils next year is welcome to teaching unions but likely to meet a mixed response from parents.
Cancellation of Higher and Advanced Higher examinations in 2021 is a “common sense” move in the best interests of students, according to Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland.
Parents, however, are expected to be divided in opinion over the decision, with one describing it as “inexcusably bad”.
The EIS praised the fact that a decision – which could have come as late as February – had been made at last, albeit later than it wanted.
It also welcomed a one-off payment announced for teachers but said agreement must be reached on appropriate recognition of the additional workload.
General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Today’s announcement acknowledges the significant level of disruption that students have faced during the pandemic.
“It is essential that all possible steps are taken to ensure that no young person is unfairly disadvantaged as a result of becoming ill or being required to self-isolate due to Covid-19.”
He added: “The EIS has every confidence in the ability of teachers to make professional judgements based on pupil evidence, and in the circumstances, believes that cancelling the exam diet in favour of an alternative model is the correct decision, one which could have been made earlier.
It is essential that all possible steps are taken to ensure that no young person is unfairly disadvantaged as a result of becoming ill or being required to self-isolate due to Covid-19.”
Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary
“We have raised repeatedly, however, the additional workload burden which this will generate and made clear that teachers should not be treated as unpaid SQA markers.
“The Deputy First Minister’s commitment, therefore, to make additional payments to teachers is welcome but the devil will be in the detail.”
Half of parents who responded to a recent survey by the National Parent Forum of Scotland forum wanted the exams cancelled, with more than half (56.7%) feeling their child did not have a fair chance of achieving the Higher or Advanced Higher grades they should.
Reacting to Education Secretary John’s Swinney’s announcement there will be no exam diet in 2021, parent councils organisation Connect called for robust alternative forms of assessment to be put in place as a matter of urgency.
Executive director Eileen Prior said: “These need to be shared widely and be definitive in expectations.
“However, we have concerns about the capacity of school and college staff to undertake additional workloads for teacher-led assessments – the replacement of National 5 exams with teacher-led assessment is already stretching staff.
Whatever system is used, it must be fair, open and transparent, with the opportunity for young people to challenge their final grades if they have supporting evidence.”
Eileen Prior, Connect executive director
“Whatever system is used, it must be fair, open and transparent, with the opportunity for young people to challenge their final grades if they have supporting evidence.”
Parents group UsForThem Scotland, set up earlier this year to fight for schools to be reopened fulltime, criticised a decision it claimed would risk a repeat of last year’s results fiasco when tens of thousands of awards had to be revoked.
Organiser Jo Bisset said: “This is an inexcusably bad decision which will have a terrible impact on children’s future.
“John Swinney made it abundantly clear that exams would go ahead if public health guidance allowed.
“Instead, it seems like he’s now taking his orders from vested interests and politicians who have, at best, base level ambitions for Scotland’s pupils.
By the time exams come around we’ll be more than a year into this pandemic.”
Jo Bisset, UsForThem Scotland
“Parents will have watched these pitiful exchanges in parliament and wondered why no-one is standing up for their children.
“By the time exams come around we’ll be more than a year into this pandemic.
“The fact the Scottish Government couldn’t get its act together and run an exams diet tells you exactly how seriously the system takes children’s interests in the short, medium and long term.”