This year’s “exams fiasco” is fast becoming the “first scandal of the new parliament”, an opposition MSP has claimed.
Speaking in parliament today, the Scottish Conservative’s education spokesman Jamie Greene accused the government of failing to learn from last year’s exams controversy.
Thousands of pupils had their teacher-estimated grades downgraded in 2020 after the Scottish Qualifications Authority applied an algorithm that looked at schools’ previous history of attainment.
With exams cancelled for the second year, grades are now being determined by teacher estimates and a “quality assurance” procedure overseen by the SQA.
However, controversially, this has seen young people sitting in-class assessments which have been dubbed “exams in all but name”.
“Pupils are at breaking point”
In an urgent question to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Greene asked the government to respond to “the reported growing and widespread concern” over this year’s grading process.
Concerns have been raised that pupils are on the brink of failing their school assessments as hectic exam timetables and lockdown takes a toll on their mental health.
Scotland’s largest independent parents group, Connect, said this year’s process “simply mimics the very worst elements of the inequitable system it replaces”.
Instead of heeding the warnings laid out in Professor Priestley’s review of last year’s exams fiasco, Mr Swinney has allowed history to repeat itself and now we’re sleepwalking into a second exam results crisis. pic.twitter.com/vOZHwdjh5W
— Jamie Greene MSP (@jamiegreeneUK) May 14, 2021
It has also be revealed that youngsters are using platforms such as video-sharing app TikTok and instant messaging site, Discord, to share confidential material from assessments being used for their final grades.
Mr Greene said: “Pupils are at breaking point, teachers are at their wits’ end, parents are furious.
“It’s abundantly clear that history is simply repeating itself and lessons have not been learned.
“This year’s exams fiasco is becoming fast the first scandal of the new parliament – who is going to fix this mess and how?”
Model not “cooked up by the SQA”
Responding Mr Greene’s comments, John Swinney – the education secretary during the last parliament – said the model being used had been decided by a wide group of stakeholders.
He also said that it had previously been made clear that evidence of student attainment would be required to inform teacher estimates.
He said: “With the greatest of respect, [cancelling exams] are incredibly difficult decisions because of the pandemic.
Pupils are at breaking point, teachers are at their wits’ end, parents are furious.”
Jamie Greene MSP, Scottish Conservative education spokesman
“For that reason, I assembled the national qualifications group which includes local authorities, teaching unions, pupils, and the Scottish Government to agree the model that’s being used.
“This is not some model cooked up by the SQA. This is a model that has been agreed to ensure that we properly record the achievements of young people.”
“The system is working together”
Mr Swinney also moved to reassure pupils that, unlike last year, their teacher-estimated grades would be final and not overturned by the SQA.
He also said efforts were being made to help those pupils who have had their learning disrupted and have been unable to sit some assessments.
Mr Swinney added: “The grades of young people will be determined by the judgement of teachers, which will be informed by evidence of demonstrated attainment of students over a number of assessments rather than an end of year exam.
“The unavoidable second period of remote learning has unfortunately meant pupils are doing assessments for this year’s certification model over a shorter period than was first anticipated.
“To help address this, coursework has been reduced and and schools have been given flexibility over the timing of the assessments.
“There will be a contingency arrangement for pupils severely disrupted and unable to generate evidence.
“The system is working together to ensure the hard work of learners is recognised fairly.”