Emergency measures to mitigate Covid disruption to exam students set to be invoked in Scotland’s schools

Scotland’s exams diet for this year is likely to move into emergency measures within the next few weeks due to ongoing disruption, which will see pupils given extra support during exams.

In a letter sent out on Tuesday to schools, colleges and training providers, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said if significant levels of disruption continue, Scotland would move to “scenario two” of three measures laid out in August.

The decision comes amid worries over the impact that Covid could have on assessment in schools for a third year.

Under the second scenario, pupils will be told which topics are likely to appear on the exam paper and may be able to take “additional support measures” such as formula sheets into exams.

The SQA has told schools that it is likely to move to "Scenario Two" for exams due to ongoing disruption

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However, class teachers will not yet be given details of exactly how the measures will work, amid fears that doing so could encourage teachers to narrow the curriculum by teaching only the smaller number of topics which will appear on exams.

Course content has already been reduced compared to a normal year to take account of the disruption to learning that young people have experienced. It emerged this week Covid caused at least 58,000 pupil absences last week across Scotland.

Critics called for a review of disruption across different parts of the country.

A final decision as to whether to invoke scenario two will be made in coming weeks, although it is believed it is more likely than not that scenario two will be adopted.

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The letter said: “We are actively monitoring levels of disruption across the country, including levels of learner and staff absence. If significant levels of disruption continue, we will soon move to what has been referred to in previous communications as scenario two, which means supporting learners with their final revision in the immediate run-up to the exams.

“In this scenario, revision support, for example guidance on topics, will be provided to help learners maximise their exam performance and reduce exam stress. There will not be any further changes to courses or course assessments, over and above those already in place through the existing modifications.”

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EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Providing students with a heads-up regarding exam content to aid revision will assist exam performance, but it’s neither a substitute nor a solution to disrupted teaching and learning, which could mean, in some instances, that not all coursework will have been overtaken by May.”

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The SQA reiterated exams would not be cancelled unless public health restrictions mean that physical gatherings are not permitted at the time of exams.

It added: “It is still the clear intention for the 2022 SQA exams to take place in April-June. Exams will only be cancelled by the Scottish Government if public health advice restricts physical gatherings at the time of the exams.”

Staff will be given support materials to assist students in March to aid their revision ahead of the Easter holidays.

Scottish Labour education spokesman Michael Marra said: “This is a clear departure in Government policy and it demands urgent answers in terms of the different levels of disruption across the country.”

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