Pupils being allowed to keep test papers at the end of an exam while teachers have to wait until the next day is “absolute nonsense”, the head of a leading Scottish teachers’ union has said.
Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, (SQA) is calling for the Scottish Qualifications Authority, to issue an immediate directive ensuring teachers have equal access to exam papers as pupils.
Mr Searson’s call comes after Scotland’s qualification’s body issued new guidance delaying teachers’ access to exam papers by a day which it said was aimed at preventing “inappropriate postings” on social media.
However, the new guidance applies only to unused question papers. Where the question paper and answer booklet are separate documents, pupils are allowed to keep their question papers.
The Educational Institute for Scotland, Scotland’s biggest teaching union, said the SQA’s action was an attempt to stem criticism of the SQA who have been slated for errors in past papers and that preventing teachers from seeing exam papers soon after pupils have sat the tests is not in the interests of youngsters and could cause greater stress.
Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, branded the move “disappointing” and accused the SQA of “apparently putting the management of its own public image ahead of the desire of pupils to discuss exam papers with their teachers”.
“It is very important for pupils, following the often stressful experience of an exam, to have the opportunity to discuss the paper with their teachers and to receive feedback while the experience is fresh in their mind. This then allows pupils to put that exam behind them, and free them up to mentally prepare for their next exam, Mr Flanagan said.
“It is not in the interest of pupils to prolong this process unnecessarily, as this can lead to increased worry and stress on the part of the young people concerned.
“The SQA should rethink this policy, show greater trust in the teaching profession and support teachers in continuing to put the interest of pupils first.
Liz Smith, MSP, Conservative education spokeswoman, said the SQA’s action was “unrealistic”.
“I understand the concerns the SQA have over social media but they need to realise that teachers and pupils can be trusted to do the right thing.
“They can’t stop genuine conversations about exam questions. To take such drastic action as this is unrealistic. It would be far better to discuss the situation with schools. This is happening at a time when pupils are sitting exams, when we should be ensuring they are not put under additional stress.”
A spokesman for the SQA said: “We continually review our processes, particularly in the area of question paper security and confidentiality. At the end of each exam, invigilators are required to collect all unused exam papers, which are then returned to the chief invigilators. Those unused papers will now be released to heads of centres the next day.
“We took this decision to prevent any breach of question paper security and confidentiality, but to also remove the risk of inappropriate postings on social media which can cause distress for candidates.”