SQA exams results day 2022: a student’s view

Young people around Scotland are hoping that results day will bring relief after years of Covid disruption, says student Michael Heffernan
4th August 2022, 6:15am

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SQA exams results day 2022: a student’s view

https://www.tes.com/magazine/analysis/secondary/sqa-exams-results-day-2022-students-view
Covid

The last few years have been tough for Scottish students like me. Indeed, that might be an understatement.

I don’t think I will ever forget the days when the pandemic was at its peak. I recall sitting in classes as Italy, France, and then Ireland went into lockdowns, where everyone, teachers included, were wondering when, not if, lockdown would come to Scotland. I remember the times when, regularly, half of my classes would be knocked out with Covid. And I remember sitting my English prelims when the entire department got the dreaded “ping” from the Protect Scotland app.

These last few years of living with Covid have covered all my time in the senior phase of secondary school, and have changed the lives of me and my peers forever. I remember like yesterday the Christmas U-turns, and the seemingly neverending changes to the exams constantly being announced by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

Yet, while these pandemic years were hectic, they also showed another way of measuring achievement that does not rely on a Victorian system of tests and examinations.

Looking back, I remember how much fairer the “alternative certification model” (ACM) used in 2020-2021 was. It allowed students to be assessed not just on one test, but more holistically, based on a number of assessments - and I regret how the SQA seems to have chosen not to learn from it.

In the SQA’s response to Professor Ken Muir’s report on education reform published in March, it is clear that its leadership still does not understand the gravity of their many failures during the pandemic. Frankly, I worry that the culture at the SQA, which fails to be learner-focused, will simply be allowed to transfer to its successor body, the proposed Qualifications Scotland. It would seem that the SQA would rather return to “normal” than turn a new leaf.

As ever, results day on Tuesday 9 August will be a frightfully scary time for many of my peers. Some will achieve the grades they wanted, but others will not.

Unlike last year, these results come from “normal” assessments. They will not simply confirm what our schools had internally assessed, as in preceding years, but offer judgement on the basis of a single exam.

Now that we as students have had time to reflect on this exam diet, many of my peers will be hoping that we are now considered fully able to participate in education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville’s “national conversation”. More of my peers, however, will be focused on celebrating with friends their academic successes, commiserating where they fell short of ambitions - and breathing a sigh of relief that, at last, this process is over.

Despite all of the above, I remain hopeful. The winding down of SQA and Education Scotland offers the Scottish government a chance to start afresh with young people, but only if they are up for doing the real work needed - not simply chasing headlines.

Professor Ken Muir’s report showed that he “got” the right to education, but I can only hope the rest of the Scottish education system will follow. The incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - despite the delays - still remains an upcoming revolution to education, even more than many think. From ensuring young people’s voices are heard as true equals in decision-making, to tackling the overuse of restraint in our schools, incorporation will make a Scotland where breaches of children’s rights are no longer tolerated.

The Scotland of the future will be a greener, fairer, and more equal nation. Scotland’s young people are fighting hard to ensure this. It is often said that we are the “future”, but we are not. We are the present. The Scottish government has talked a big game about getting it right for every child, and also with The Promise to young people in care. Now, all I and my fellow students ask for is delivery.

Michael Heffernan is about to start sixth year at a secondary school in North Lanarkshire

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