Scotland's school pupils must not face further betrayal with repeat of last year's exam chaos – Scotsman comment

Given the Covid pandemic hit the UK in March last year, it was to be expected that the process of assessing pupils’ abilities – in the absence of exams cancelled at such short notice – would be somewhat chaotic.

New Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville needs to make sure replacement assessment system, whether it involves exams or not, works effectively (Picture: John Devlin)

However, this year there is no excuse whatsover for a similar debacle and yet there are alarming signs that the system is running into trouble.

Pupils have been sitting what to ordinary people are quite clearly “exams” which the powers-that-be insist are not actually exams but are instead part of teacher-led assessment.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

And it would appear this is not merely semantics.

According to the Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, teachers are “expected to produce the exams, create the marking schemes and then mark them. They are being instructed to assure quality, and translate those marks into grades, like an exam board would traditionally do". He added: “It is unclear why the SQA [Scottish Qualification Authority] has removed themselves from so many of their normal responsibilities.”

As if to add insult to injury, an extra payment given to teachers to cover the time taken to do all this extra work amounted to “less than the minimum wage”, Cole-Hamilton wrote.

And now the SQA has missed its own deadline to confirm details of the appeals process for pupils who feel they deserve better grades. This means that young people currently sitting exams do not know what evidence they may need for an appeal in August after receiving their results.

Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens’ education spokesperson, who highlighted the problem, called for the authority’s board to be replaced, saying it was “unbelievable that the SQA have left themselves so completely unprepared for this year's assessments”.

The SQA and the Scottish government have known, for certain, that a replacement assessment system would be required since Highers and Advanced Highers were cancelled in December and planning should have been well underway before then given the uncertainty.

If we are heading for a repeat fiasco that affects pupils’ life chances, it would be an unforgivable further betrayal of a young generation who have already lost so much because of the Covid pandemic.

New Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville needs to get to grips with her new brief – and quickly.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.