Scottish Labour have warned “vital action” needs to be taken to avoid another exams “fiasco” this summer.
In a letter to the new Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scottish Labour education spokesperson Michael Marra said pupils are facing a “summer of discontent in education” because of this year’s grading process.
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.
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.
“Lessons from last year have not be learned”
In the letter, Mr Marra wrote: “The most immediate priority in this work is the current exams crisis which is impacting tens of thousands of young people, their teachers and their families right now.
“Your predecessor’s insistence that there are no exams being undertaken did a disservice to the young people working day and night to sit the examinations that have been set.
“It is clear that lessons from last year’s exams fiasco have not be learned, and that this year’s alternative assessment system has the potential to be more damaging than the one used last year.”
Honoured to serve the people of North East Scotland after being sworn in as a MSP at Holyrood. Thank you for the many good wishes and messages of support. pic.twitter.com/8l786OKj7S
— Michael Marra MSP (@michaeljmarra) May 16, 2021
Mr Marra called on the education secretary to publish the SQA appeals process, implement a resit guarantee for pupils, and to ensure that a no detriment policy for accessing further or higher education is put in place.
He added: “I have been in contact with many colleagues in higher education who are concerned regarding their plans for campus return.
“Our institutions are of course seeking to use their campuses in the most efficient and safest way from the autumn semester.
“There is urgent need for clarity surrounding the Covid guidance – particularly in relation to social distancing – within the sector.”
Commenting on the letter, Mr Marra said the new education secretary needed to listen to key stakeholders to avoid “another exams fiasco”.
He added: “We are facing a summer of discontent in education. It is not of the new minister’s making but it falls to her to deal with it.
“That’s why I am calling on the minister to listen to teachers, education experts, unions and Labour and take the vital action needed now to solve another exams fiasco in our education system.
“Our young people need hope after this dreadful year. The minister must deal with the damage and distress that has already been caused by this government. She must also start to rebuild opportunity for young Scots’ futures.”
SQA “treating treating pupils with contempt”
Michael Marra’s letter comes as the Scottish Greens accuse the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) of treating pupils with contempt over this year’s appeals process.
The SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson had previously told Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer that the appeals process would be confirmed by the end of April, or the beginning of May at the latest.
However, the exams agency has now missed its own deadline for confirming how the appeals process will work for this year’s school assessments.
Mr Greer said: “After last year’s exams debacle, in which the appeals process was an acute point of failure, it’s unbelievable that the SQA have left themselves so completely unprepared for this year’s assessments.
“It’s utterly unacceptable that pupils are being forced through exams in all but name without either they or their teachers having any idea how the appeals process will work, or what evidence they will need to provide for it.
“The SQA has once again proven that it does not work in the interests of those it is supposed to serve, indeed it doesn’t even seem capable of doing that.”
It’s unbelievable that the SQA have left themselves so completely unprepared for this year’s assessments.”
Ross Greer, Scottish Green MSP
A spokesperson for the SQA said: “The outcomes of the appeals consultation are currently being finalised, following the public consultation.
“We aim to announce details of the appeals process imminently.”
“Truly honoured to have been asked to take up this role”
Ms Somerville was announced as the new education secretary earlier this week. The Dunfermline MSP replaces John Swinney, who had been in the role since 2016.
She said she was “delighted” to be asked to step into the position.
She said: “I’m delighted and truly honoured to have been asked by the First Minister to take up this role.
“I fully understand what an important time this is for education in Scotland.
“Young people have faced a lot of disruption to their learning due to the pandemic and our teachers have done a sterling job to provide the best learning experience possible in the most trying of circumstances.
We are determined to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up.”
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville
“This government is committed to closing the attainment gap and breaking down the remaining barriers that prevent children from accessing the opportunities they deserve.
“We are determined to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up and education will certainly play a key role in achieving that aim.”