Scots parents warn of court challenge over National 5 exams axe

A fundraising drive for a potential court fight against plans to axe the National Five exams in Scotland has been launched by a parents group.
The National 5 exams in Scotland have been cancelled for 2021The National 5 exams in Scotland have been cancelled for 2021
The National 5 exams in Scotland have been cancelled for 2021

It comes as it emerged that thousands of children, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, will leave school without sitting any exams if the Scottish Government presses ahead with its controversial proposals which were unveiled by Education Secretary John Swinney last week.

Scot parents group UsForThem Scotland says around 6000 pupils in S4 would leave school at the end of this year planning to go onto college and work.

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The National 5 exams for next year were axed by Mr Swinney last week. The second wave of Covid made it impossible to guarantee at this stage that exams could be safely undertaken, with pupils and teachers demanding clarity around courses which are already underway.

Grades will still be awarded, but on the basis of class work and teacher assessment.

There are now concerns that this will hamper pupils, many of whom would be expected to take on further education or apprenticeships without the experience of exams, and having sat a course which some experts now say will “lack credibility”.

UsForThem, which has 11,000 members across Scotland, also confirmed it was starting a fundraising campaign to launch legal action against Mr Swinney’s decision following consultation with its members.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said: “We know from historic trends that around 6000 children will leave school at the end of S4 next year.

“They will all now have to do so without sitting an exam.

“That does not stand them in good stead for the future, especially for the 50 per cent or so who go straight to college where exams are a key part of most courses.

“Many of those who leave school at the end of S4 will be from disadvantaged backgrounds – they already have enough going against them without the government spoiling their education too.

Parents aren’t taking this decision lying down which is why so many are behind our initial plans for legal action.

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“If the government won’t listen to parents, then perhaps they’ll have to listen to the courts.”

Higher and Advanced Higher examinations in 2021 will go ahead as planned, but will start from 13 May next year, later than normal, to allow for more teaching to be done to make up for some of the teaching time lost at the end of 2019/20.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the decision on National 5 exams had been taken to protect the “safety of both staff and pupils.”

“Our decision to replace National 5 exams with grades based on teacher judgement and coursework assessment was informed by Professor Priestley’s independent review, and by listening to the views of pupils, teachers, parents, education experts, local authorities and other stakeholders. The SQA will work with Education Scotland, local authorities, and others to support a national approach to deliver robust quality assurance, including the provision of assessment resources.

“We must always be mindful of public health advice to protect the safety of staff and pupils, and not running these exams significantly reduces risk.”

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