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Education / MSYP supports decision to call off exams

THE DECISION to cancel higher and advancer higher exams next year has been welcomed by one of Shetland’s Scottish Youth Parliament representatives.

Jonathan Dorrat said he believed clarity over the exams “reduces the strain on young folk”.

The announcement was made by education secretary John Swinney on Monday, and it follows the previous cancellation of National 5 exams.

Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament Jonathan Dorrat. Photo: Shetland News

The move appears to stem from education reasons rather than health, with Swinney saying some pupils have had their learning impacted by periods of isolation.

Grades will now be based on teacher judgement of evidence of pupils’ attainment.

MSYP Dorrat said that since returning to school pupils have been learning courses in a shorter amount of time than usual with “continuous assessments added on top of the workload”.

“Shetland pupils have not been as badly affected by Covid-19 cases and isolation, with some of the highest attendance at school in Scotland here in the isles,” he said.

“However, this doesn’t mean that our learning hasn’t been impacted this year. There is a greater stress on pupils due to increased assessments, timed essays and such which are being completed.

“As one young person said to me, having to complete the extra assessments all year round – just in case the exams were cancelled – made it feel like there was no need to sit an exam anyway, so this clarity is welcomed as it reduces the strain on young folk.”

Dorrat said that in comparison pupils last year were set to sit exams when that opportunity was taken away from them, “whereas this year we have more notice of the changes and have been doing extra tests anyway”.

“The Scottish Youth Parliament look forward to continuing our work to ensure young people’s views are meaningfully included in the Scottish Government Covid-19 Education Recovery Group.”

Chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee George Smith also welcomed the decision.

“There will no doubt be mixed feelings amongst pupils but what is required now is absolute clarity on the assessment process and any appeals process,” he said.

“Teachers and pupils must be left in no doubt as to how this will work and how teachers’ judgements will be used.

“The role of the SQA in moderation and any appeals process must also be clear from the outset. Everyone must have confidence that the situation which arose this year with the initial downgrading of thousands of estimated grades will not be repeated next year.”

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart, meanwhile, said she was pleased to hear Swinney’s announcement.

“It’s been clear for some time that pupils wouldn’t have an equal shot at success after this year’s disruption,” she said.

“Hard work is now needed from government, SQA and Education Scotland to get all the necessary procedures and advice on the assessment model in place for the start of the new term at the latest.”