Scots exams face axe next year as Covid cases spike

Parents in Scotland have warned that the prospect of exams being cancelled north of the Border again next year would cause “even more damage” to a future generation of youngsters.

Education Secretary John Swinney is understood to be considering axing the National 5s exams diet amid concerns of a second wave of coronavirus. Highers and Advanced highers would still go ahead but choice could be curtailed.

But the move would be controversial after the debacle which surrounded the cancellation of this year’s exams and the botched estimates provided to students.

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Last week Mr Swinney said he had doubts about next year’s exams programme because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, citing a “very real risk” of disruption.

The campaign group UsForThem Scotland has written to the education secretary seeking clarity on the matter.

The group, which has more than 10,000 members across Scotland, wants schooling to continue as normal throughout the pandemic, even if other parts of society as forced into lockdown again.

The letter, from UsForThem Scotland organiser Jo Bisset, states: “We cannot afford for children to have their exams disrupted again, and parents want certainty on this matter now.

“It is completely unfair to leave children, who’ve already endured so much, hanging in this way.

“UsForThem Scotland would like to see an unequivocal statement from the Scottish Government that the 2021 exams will go ahead as normal, so that pupils can start preparing now for such a crucial juncture in their life.

“Anything less than that will risk causing even more damage to the future of a generation of pupils.”

If Nationals are axed, it would see around 80,000 pupils awarded their certificates on the basis of coursework only.

Mr Swinney is expected to make the announcement before schools break up for the October break.

When this year’s results were announced, it emerged that 124,000 grades had been lowered by an algorithm. The ‘moderation’ process affected around 75,000 youngsters. Mr Swinney swiftly abandoned the process and said grades would be based on teachers’ recommendations. Two reports are due to be published by the end of the month into the fiasco.

Tory Education spokesman Jamie Greene said going ahead with exams must be “plan A”, adding: “The SNP should make every effort to save National 5 and Higher exams. All other options should be exhausted before exams are scrapped.”

But Green education spokesman Ross Greer, MSP, pointed to the huge “logistical challenge” presented by attempting to run exams, given all pupils must sit the exam at the same time but a maximum of only 50 pupils can be in any exam hall.

He added; “This doesn’t even take into account the impact of any future local or national lockdowns, the huge workload that preparing for both exams and an alternative contingency would place on teachers or the reality that a month’s learning and teaching time in June has already been lost.

“The only reliable solution is to cancel the 2021 exams now.”

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