Teacher strikes Scotland: Union' ready to boycott' Scottish assessments scrapped during Covid-19 pandemic

A trade union representing teachers has threatened to boycott exams next year.​

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) said members have been calling for a boycott after the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) announced plans to reintroduce assessments and coursework scrapped during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The exams body, which is set to be replaced in an overhaul of the education system, said on Wednesday the assessments would return in the next academic year.

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The SSTA accused the SQA of pushing the announcement out while the focus was on the appointment of new First Minister Humza Yousaf this week, and while teachers finish exam and assessment preparation before schools close for the Easter break.

The SSTA teaching union has issued a warning over the return of Scottish assessments. Picture: David Jones/PA WireThe SSTA teaching union has issued a warning over the return of Scottish assessments. Picture: David Jones/PA Wire
The SSTA teaching union has issued a warning over the return of Scottish assessments. Picture: David Jones/PA Wire

SSTA general secretary Seamus Searson said the move was "bad news" for all secondary school teachers and the young people they teach.

He said: "I am absolutely astounded by this message from the SQA. The SQA needs a reality check as it has totally misread the situation in secondary schools."

Mr Searson said he had not spoken to a "single secondary school teacher" who believes their pupils are ready to return to full exam requirements. The SSTA has advocated for interim measures to remain in place in 2024 and beyond.

Mr Searson added: "The long-term damage to pupils, caused by the pandemic, is no secret. Every secondary teacher in the country knows that pupils are still not ready to return to the previous regime.

"Any resumption of 'normal' arrangements is more about SQA taking back control and cementing a place for itself in the developing education landscape.

"This risks giving an impression that the pandemic never happened, and that education recovery is just a nonsense to which the SQA pays lip service".

Mr Searson said the decision "flies in the face" of common sense as the assessment and qualifications system is set for an overhaul in 2025.

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He said: "To reintroduce the 'normal' when it could all change again in the next couple of years is just going to add to teacher workload and cause further damage to teachers' health and wellbeing."

Mr Searson claimed the SSTA had been barred from the National Qualifications Strategic Group and said when challenged, the SQA stated it needs only one teacher representative

"Our view is that they do not really want to hear what secondary teachers think,” he said.

"Any idea that the SQA has engaged with the education community carries the risk of being accused of contempt for secondary school teachers. This proposal shows that it hasn't listened and is following its own agenda.

"The SSTA has already had calls from members to boycott the return of the full requirements and I cannot see the call being rejected.”

An SQA spokesperson said: “This decision has been made in the best interests of learners following engagement with teachers, lecturers, training providers, universities, colleges and subject experts.

“Concerns were raised that if the temporary modifications, introduced as an emergency Covid measure, were retained they would have a detrimental impact on learners’ knowledge and on their progression into further or higher education or employment.

“A return to coursework provides learners with a more balanced approach.”, in line with the direction of travel emerging from the independent review of assessment, and is particularly beneficial to those learners who may not perform well in high-stakes exams.”



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