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Education / No National 5 exams next year

Chairman of SIC’s education and families committee welcomes clarity over exam diet

THERE will be no exams for pupils in Scotland sitting National 5 qualifications next year, it has been confirmed.

In an announcement on Wednesday, education secretary John Swinney said that highers and advanced highers will still take place – although slightly later than normal.

National 5 qualifications will be based on “teacher judgement supported by assessment”. Swinney said holding a full exam diet in 2021 was “too big a risk”.

He added that lessons will be learned from the cancelled exams earlier this year, which drew controversy over the way results were awarded.

Education and families committee chairman George Smith.

In response, Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee chairman George Smith said: “Today’s announcement adds some clarity for pupils, parents and staff in schools.

“School leaders and teachers in Shetland have demonstrated their ability to adapt to changing circumstances over the past few months, and the service will continue to work within the framework set out by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

“Staff from children’s services will meet with SQA co-ordinators from each school early next term and will share more detailed information with staff, parents and pupils when everyone returns after a well-earned October break.”

Speaking following the parliamentary announcement on Wednesday evening, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said the exams review had highlighted “the countless opportunities the education secretary had to avoid dealing a crushing blow to pupils’ ambitions and penalising those from poorer backgrounds”.

“They fell on deaf ears,” the Liberal Democrat said, “and the scramble to undo the damage is still being felt. Pupils are only today learning how they will be assessed, months into their course. Teachers are exhausted and exasperated. Changes to the format this year must not lead to their work piling up.

“But pupils need more than a competent system of assessment if they are to have the best possible chance of succeeding in the face of the pandemic. That is why Scottish Liberal Democrats also want to see extra support in every classroom, new catch-up funding for children from less well-off backgrounds who have suffered the most, and for the absent Education Scotland to finally turn up to this crisis.”

Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer MSP, meanwhile, said that Swinney should have called off all exams.

“Cancelling and replacing National 5 exams was the only responsible choice, so I cannot for the life of me work out why the Education Secretary hasn’t done the same with highers,” he said.