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Education / Higher and advanced higher exams to be cancelled

HIGHER and advanced higher exams will not take place next year, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Like the already cancelled National 5 exams, grades will be based off teacher judgement.

The news was confirmed by education secretary John Swinney in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon (Tuesday).

John Swinney cutting the ribbon at the Anderson High School site. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News
Deputy first minister and education secretary John Swinney cutting the ribbon at the Anderson High School site in September 2018. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

He also said that students’ return to university after Christmas will be staggered over the space of at least six weeks.

Undergraduate students will restart their course at home under their normal schedule, and should only return to campus when asked to do so by their university.

When students return to term-time accommodation, they will be offered lateral flow Covid-19 testing, similar to that offered ahead of Christmas.

All students are being asked to restrict their social interaction for a fortnight before they return to university and for the same period after they get there.

The MSP also said that after schools return in January routine asymptomatic testing of school staff will be trialled.

Speaking about exams, Swinney said that a “significant percentage of our poorest pupils” has lost teaching time a result of the pandemic.

He said Scotland needed a “more flexible” model relating to the specific circumstances of pupils.

Swinney said the system being worked on for National 5 exams was the correct model for highers.

The MSP also confirmed that no algorithm would be used in this model.

Scottish Lib Dems leader Willie Rennie said cancelling exams was the right thing to do and was “inevitable”.

“The evidence is clear that pupils wouldn’t have an equal shot at success if they went ahead,” he said.

“Some have had the disruption of self-isolating multiple times, while others haven’t missed a minute of school.”

Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer quickly welcomed the announcement on exams.

“It provides the clarity that teachers, parents and, most importantly, pupils had demanded,” he said.

“What’s essential now is that the education secretary stops the SQA repeating its approach to National 5 assessments with the higher and advanced highers.

“Despite Mr Swinney’s categorical assurances to me earlier this year, the SQA has created a system which has massively added to teachers’ workloads, essentially expecting them to take on the huge additional work of an SQA marker.

“Given that Scotland’s school system was already dependent on an average of eleven hours of overtime per teacher per week, this will push many beyond their breaking point and simply cannot be allowed to happen.”