Leader: Testing times for Scottish education

The release of exam results tomorrow will help shape the futures of thousands of Scottish teenagers. For the first time since 2019, pupils sat in-person tests, with “teacher judgement” called upon to help determine grades during the intervening years.

The return of traditional exams has led to widespread expectation that the results will mark a fall in attainment on 2021. The Scottish Qualifications Authority itself predicted earlier this year that results of the 2022 exams would be an “intermediary position” between those of last year and pre-pandemic.

The outlook for today’s youngsters is made even more depressing by predictions of a recession lasting longer than a year, as inflation and the cost of living soar.

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Scottish business leaders should be applauded for their pledge to “recognise and value qualifications as much as any other year”.

Scottish exam results are due to be released on TuesdayScottish exam results are due to be released on Tuesday
Scottish exam results are due to be released on Tuesday

Their open letter today - signatories of which include the Scottish Retail Consortium, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, and the CBI - says: “We want to reassure you that we recognise and value your qualifications as much as any other year and that the skills you have developed, and will continue to develop, will play a crucial role in ensuring a bright future for businesses in Scotland and our economy.”

With pupils facing a similar picture in England, UK Government education minister Will Quince has said universities will “adjust accordingly” to the lower grades.

These moves are welcome while the education system seeks to recover from the extraordinary pressures put upon it by the pandemic.

But the return to normality should also provide an opportunity for a full and frank assessment of the performance of the Scottish Government’s beleaguered Curriculum for Excellence itself.

The system has been dogged by criticism from teachers and education experts that it is too vague.

Since its introduction more than ten years ago, Scotland has fallen down international education league tables.

Ministers have already said the SQA and standards body Education Scotland will be replaced.

These measures alone may not be enough to revive a flagging education system that was once the envy of the world.