Saturday, 24 Oct 2020

SNP SHAMED: NATS accused of ‘throwing in towel’ by axing exams in controversial move

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Education Secretary John Swinney said today National 5 exams in Scotland will be cancelled. The move means young people who were due to sit the tests will be assessed based on coursework and teacher based knowledge instead.

Mr Swinney told MSPs in Holyrood this afternoon: “Due to the level of disruption already caused by COVID and due to the likely disruption faced by some or all of our pupils and students this academic year, a full exam diet is simply too big a risk to take.”

“The alternative approach will be based on teacher judgment, supported by assessment resources and quality assurance.”

The alternative judgement will require between two and four pieces of work for every subject from pupils, with Mr Swinney saying guidance from the SQA will “emphasise quality, not quantity”.

Meanwhile, Highers and Advanced Higher qualifications will be pushed back, starting on the later date of May 13, to ensure students who missed teaching time due to the pandemic earlier this year will have the chance to catch up.

It comes after more than 124,000 results were downgraded during a botched SQA moderation process in August, which was introduced after COVID-19 forced the scrapping of exams.

Protests forced both the First Minister and the Education Secretary John Swinney to apologise, with amended grades eventually being withdrawn.

As a result, teacher estimates were reinstated on Highers, Advanced Highers and National 5s.

Jamie Greene MSP, Scottish Conservative Education spokesman, said: “By cancelling the National 5 exams the Education Secretary has thrown in the towel.

“Today’s statement gave some clarity, but months into the academic year, it was far too late in coming for our teachers and young people.

“Serious questions remain for John Swinney on how National 5 grades will be awarded and what contingency plans will be in place for Highers and Advanced Highers if exams cannot proceed.

“Confidence in him is already rock bottom, and today’s announcement raises more questions than answers.

“If John Swinney doesn’t set out these details now, then he runs the real risk of repeating his disastrous mistakes from this year.”

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Meanwhile, Iain Gray, Scottish Labour Education Representative said the statement was “very, very late”.

He said: “Teachers are months into teaching courses without knowing exactly what they should be teaching, how pupils will be assessed and what evidence they should have been gathering.

“They were told that exams would go ahead but then that a final decision had not been reached.

“They were told courses would be amended to account for lost time but not how, while days weeks and months passed by.”

The decision was based on two recommendations from a review ordered by the Education Secretary in the wake of the exams scandal by Professor Mark Priestley of Stirling University.

An independent review after the August fiasco undertaken by Professor Priestly was released today.

Mr Swinney added that an award “would not be given or taken away” in future on the basis of a computer model or the past performance of schools, as was the case in this year’s system.

He added: “There will be no algorithm. Awards will be based on the progress of our young people and their work.

“This work and the judgment of the teacher, supported by appropriate quality assurance to maintain standards, will be the evidence on which grades are based.”

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