Nicola Sturgeon makes clear ‘firm intention’ for exams to go ahead in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon has said it is her “firm intention” that senior students at secondary schools will sit exams this year.

But she said the Covid pandemic meant she could not guarantee this would happen, as she said “sensible and appropriate” contingencies had been put in place.

The First Minister was quizzed on the matter after education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville told how the situation was being kept under review, adding the “very latest” a final decision could be made on the exam diet was the end of March.

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Nicola Sturgeon wants senior students at secondary schools to sit exams this year. Picture: PA

Tories and Liberal Democrats both pressed Ms Sturgeon on the situation at First Minister’s Questions, claiming “confusion” over what would happen risked causing more disruption for students.

For the past two years, the pandemic has meant exams for Highers and other formal qualifications have been unable to take place, with pupils instead given grades based on their teachers’ assessment of performance.

Ms Sturgeon said that could happen again this year, if the public health advice was that it was not safe for exams to take place.

“Given we’re still living through a global pandemic, contingencies are needed in education as in all other aspects of life right now,” she told MSPs.

But the First Minster said she hoped such contingencies would not be required, stressing: “Our firm intention this year is that exams will go ahead.”

Conservative education spokesman Oliver Mundell said Ms Sturgeon “should be guaranteeing exams take place this year”.

He argued: “Contingencies are needed, but not the type her Government proposes.

“What has happened to suggestions of acquiring larger community spaces? What about additional invigilators in place? And what about one-to-one support, most importantly, for those young people who have lost out on their learning?”

Ms Sturgeon pledged that “if education is further disrupted, because of developments in the pandemic, than additional support will be provided for those studying for exams”.

But she also said: “The second contingency is that if public health advice says it isn’t safe for young people to come together to sit exams in the traditional way, then we go back to a situation akin to the last two years where we would have teacher judgment coming to bear instead of exams.”

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