Call for more in-service days after exams cancelled

Teachers need more time to implement the system that will replace Higher and Advanced Higher exams, says union boss

Emma Seith

Coronavirus: Teachers need more in-service days after the cancellation of SQA exams, says EIS union

Scotland’s largest teaching union will be pushing for more in-service days for teachers this year in the wake of the cancellation of the 2021 exams, according to the general secretary of the EIS teaching union.

Announcing the cancellation of the Higher and Advanced Higher exams yesterday, education secretary John Swinney said he would ask all secondary schools to prioritise working together on the alternative model of certification – which will be based on teacher judgement – on the remaining in-service days this academic year.

This assertion has, however, been branded “pointless” by EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan.

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Mr Flanagan said, in an interview with Tes Scotland, that the replacement assessment model would have been the focus of these in-service days anyway, given that teachers already knew they were going to be responsible for determining the National 5 results, after those exams were cancelled back in October.

Mr Flanagan said his union would be making the case for additional in-service days.

He said it would be “virtually impossible” for teachers to accommodate planning for the new assessment system into the normal school day. Teachers were already “on their knees”, he said, adding that much of the planning would need to be done collectively, rather than individually.

Coronavirus exam cancellations: 'Teachers are on their knees'

Mr Flanagan added: “There just is not enough time; people are on their knees just doing teaching and learning.”

Mr Swinney – who also said in his statement yesterday that teachers would receive “a unique one-off payment” to reflect the additional workload that the cancellation of the exams would result in – said that many schools still had two or three in-service days left this year, out of the five they receive.

However, Mr Flanagan disputed that, saying not all schools had two or three days left and even where they did, at least one in-service day was likely to fall in late May, when the results process was as good as completed.  

Yesterday, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) revealed its five-stage process for quality assuring N5 teacher judgements, with the date set for schools to submit their grades being 28 May.

Mr Flanagan said: “Time is critical to workload. A payment can recognise additional workload but it does not create any time – to make the thing actually work, you need time. That will be a challenge – it would have been a challenge for N5, but it becomes a bigger challenge to take in Higher and Advanced Higher.”

Mr Flanagan said the starting point for arguing for the one-off payment for teachers was the SQA no longer having to pay for markers.

Given that the announcement was made only yesterday, he said negotiations over the actual sum teachers would receive were at an early stage.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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