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Education / School exams called off as government explores new ways of pupil assessment

PUPILS will not have to sit exams this year in a bid to ensure the health and wellbeing of students and teachers during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is working on a certification model for S4 to S6 pupils that will include consideration of coursework, teacher assessment of estimated grades and prior attainment.

Local authorities are being tasked to put in place arrangements to support vulnerable children and those who have parents or carers employed as key workers.

Quality improvement executive manager Robin Calder said the council was awaiting further guidance from the SQA.

“We’ll continue to share information with parents and carers while we await further details from the SQA on the implications of the news that the 2020 exam diet will not go ahead,” he said.

On Wednesday, first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that all schools and nurseries would close as of tomorrow (Friday) and would possibly not open again before the summer break.

In Thursday, education secretary John Swinney told the Scottish Parliament that exams would not go ahead, while teaching, learning and support would continue with local flexibility.

The deputy first minister made clear that teaching, learning and support would very much continue – “albeit in different ways for different groups of children”.

John Swinney cutting the ribbon at the Anderson High School site. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland NewsEducation secretary John Swinney cutting the ribbon at the Anderson High School site in September 2018. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

“It is a measure of the gravity of the challenge we now face that the exams will not go ahead this year,” he said.

“With the support of the wider education system, a credible certification model can be put in place that can command confidence in the absence of the exam diet – to ensure that young people in our schools and colleges who through no fault of their own are unable to sit exams, are not disadvantaged.”

For the majority of pupils, learning would continue through distance learning and online learning, with different forms of ongoing contact with teachers rather than in school, face-to-face.

“For vulnerable children and those who have parents or carers employed as key workers, local authorities are developing approaches to support them,” Swinney said.

“We will not cut adrift vulnerable young people who often rely on school life for hot meals or for a safe, nurturing and supportive environment.

“Parents are not expected to be a teacher or to recreate the school day – your school will be giving you some resources and suggestions as your first port of call.”

SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson said the closure of schools for an extended period would affect almost every family across Scotland.

“I fully appreciate that this will be an uncertain time for learners who have worked hard throughout the year and will now, with their families, be worried about what this means for them,” she said.

“Everyone here at SQA will do their utmost, with the support of the education system, to ensure that their hard work is rightly and fairly recognised, and allows them to proceed to further learning or work.”

Shetland Islands Council has already set up a number of childcare hubs for key workers. More information about these can be found here.