Exams: Teachers in Scotland demand clarity on grades

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:
Image: Lucie Carlier/MA Education

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is under pressure to ensure young people in the last two years of school are not severely disadvantaged by the Coronavirus pandemic.

With schools closed indefinitely due to the coronavirus crisis, exams cancelled and no requirement to submit coursework, teachers, parents and pupils are in the dark about how grades can be awarded that accurately reflect ability and effort.

While teaching unions have broadly welcomed the enhanced role their members will have in estimating grades, some young people and parents have voiced frustration that they will no longer have the chance to sit exams.

Particular concerns focus on university admissions – UCAS have offered only a two-week extension to the May deadline for pupils to accept offers.

The Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee has written to the SQA with a raft of questions, including many from teachers, about the practical implications of the schools shutdown.

“Given that England has announced that it will offer students an examination at the earliest stage of the next academic year if the candidate is unhappy with the results given, would this be implemented in the Scottish system?,” one asked.

“This seems like a much fairer system and ensures that those who are disadvantaged by this will come out of it with the grades they deserved – e.g. those who work harder closer to the exam period. If not, can an individual take the exams in the following academic year and will this count as first sitting?”

However, another said it made sense to use predicted grades, “otherwise the SQA and Scottish government are admitting there has never been a point in teachers submitting these predictions.”

Judith McClure, a former headteacher who has advised the government on education, said young people needed schools and universities to work together to provide as much reassurance as possible.

“This is such a worrying time for thousands of young people,” she said. “It’s not easy at all for our institutions to respond to this crisis either but the least that universities should do is extend the deadline for 2021 admissions to January next year from this summer.”

Fiona Robertson, SQA chief executive, said: “Everyone here at SQA will do their utmost, given the current situation, and with the support of the education system, to ensure that learners’ hard work is rightly and fairly recognised and allows them to proceed to further learning or work.

“We will provide further details on the estimation of grades that we will need from teachers and lecturers to inform certification, and fuller details of our approach to certification, as soon as possible.”

The latest announcements from the SQA relating to the coronavirus exam cancellations can be found via https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/93717.html


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