All exams are cancelled for Scottish schoolchildren in 2021.
Is this a common sense decision or one which is inexcusably bad?
Both are verdicts delivered on Education Secretary John Swinney’s announcement that next year’s Higher and Advanced Higher diets have been called off, alongside those of National 5s which had already been scrapped.
While teaching unions are clear that they wanted the sittings cancelled, parents of S5 and S6 pupils are divided over whether their children’s grades should be determined by a final test or assessments of their performance by their teachers.
A survey by the National Parent Forum of Scotland found that half of respondents wanted next year’s tests cancelled, with just over half fearing their children wouldn’t get the grades they deserved.
Safety and fairness
This year’s exams were cancelled for safety reasons, with the country still in lockdown as the pandemic swept the country.
The consequence was a set of results – revoked shortly after – which saw pupils from schools in poorer areas disproportionately marked down during the modification process.
Fairness rather than safety has driven next year’s cancellation, we’re told, with the fear that again the poorest pupils will be worst affected by the circumstances we find ourselves in.
Pupils in more deprived areas of the country are more likely than their affluent peers to have lost teaching time due to the need to self-isolate, some of them multiple times.
With an attainment gap already between the richest and poorest schoolchildren, this inequality could further disadvantage pupils on the wrong side of that divide.
So it’s common sense that teachers who know their pupils and their abilities are best able to judge their performance and take into account the disruption each individual has suffered.
And it’s only fair they are enlisted to exercise their professional judgement to deliver a fair set of results after an academic year like no other.
It’s now up to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Qualifications Authority to ensure systems are in place for robust assessment so that when results are delivered on August 10, next year, they are the grades young people have earned and can have confidence in.