Coronavirus in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon says teacher judgement will be used for exam results

Nicola Sturgeon has moved to reassure parents and senior school pupils about the assessments they are sitting amid rising concerns about the impact on children’s mental health after a year of disrupted education.

At the Covid briefing on Tuesday, the First Minister was asked if the Scottish Government owed students an apology after they had previously been told they would not be sitting exams this year.

Ms Sturgeon did not apologise, but said she understood it was an “anxious time” for young people.

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She said: “The SQA [Scottish Qualifications Authority] oversees the certification of the process and, as I’m finding out anew after the election, I and the government are accountable for all of these things.

Concerns have been raised about the system of assessments children are undertaking at school.

“We take all of this really seriously. Young people have suffered more than any group in our society, not just in terms of education, but the impact on their lives over the last year.

"We continue to take this seriously, to listen to young people and make sure we have the right arrangements in place.

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“The revised certification model for National 5, Higher and Advanced Highers was published in February and the submission date for provisional grades has been extended to 25th June to allow more time for the gathering of evidence of pupil attainment.

Nicola Sturgeon has defended the school assessment system in operation for senior pupils.

"It’s important to remember the model was developed by the National Qualifications 2021 Group, which includes teacher EIS [teaching union] representation, and it was made clear there was no requirement to replicate a full formal exam diet.

"The awarding of results will be based on teacher judgement, not on past results or algorithms, and the evidence for each individual learner does not have to be the same as long as it meets the conditions of assessment relative to the course.”

Last year the Scottish Government came under fire for allowing the SQA to apply an algorithm to the teacher-adjudged results after the exams were cancelled, which resulted in thousands of children having their qualifications downgraded.

The SQA later had to reinstate the original grades, and education secretary John Swinney faced a vote of no confidence in the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Sturgeon said: “This is an anxious time for young people, I recognise that, and great care has been, and will continue to be taken, to ensure they are supported as fully as possible.”

However, the First Minister was challenged on her remarks, with claims by teachers put to her they were not being able to use their professional judgement, but were rather being forced to set exam-like assessments.

Ms Sturgeon rejected the suggestion and reiterated: “It is based on teacher judgement, but there is evidence required to inform that judgement, and the teacher makes the judgement on the basis of that.

"We continue, and remember this was a model agreed to by the EIS, to listen to concerns and anxieties of young people and teachers, but it’s important we’re clear about the underpinning facts.”

The First Minister was also asked when children who need to transition from nursery to primary or from primary to high school, would be able to visit their new schools.

“We have to do things in a phased, staged and careful way,” she said. “I hope to see more changes around this when we come to the next stage of changes in three weeks’ time.”

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