Growing concerns about student assessment in 2021 have been heard in the first education debate of the new Scottish Parliament.
Jamie Greene, the Conservatives' education spokesperson, said it was "fast becoming the first scandal of the new Parliament".
Tes Scotland has documented widespread concerns about assessment this year, with some now expressing fears that a fiasco even worse than in 2020 could be on the horizon.
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Many teachers have shared their concerns that, despite all national Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) exams having been cancelled in December, school staff and students are nonetheless going through a gruelling exam period at the moment, regardless of assertions by the SQA and government ministers that there should be no exams.
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Mr Greene told Parliament that he had heard of one parent who said their child had 43 "exam-like" assessments in five weeks.
SNP MSP Bob Doris asked if teachers can use their own judgement to determine grades, which has been a major issue of contention recently. "Fundamentally, the answer to Mr Doris' question is 'yes'," replied education secretary John Swinney, making reference to an SQA statement released today.
A repeated theme in MSPs' questions was the SQA trying to pin blame for the current situation on anyone but itself. New Green MSP Gillian Mackay said it should have been entirely obvious that exam materials would have been shared around.
The SQA previously promised details of the appeals process in "early May", but this is yet to materialise. When asked about this, Mr Swinney said it would be published "shortly".
I’ve lodged an urgent parliamentary question with the new Holyrood Presiding Officer over the unfolding disaster of this years exams. It’s clear we simply cannot wait for the First Minister to posture and reshuffle her Cabinet. Pupils, parents and teachers deserve answers now!— Jamie Greene MSP (@jamiegreeneUK) May 14, 2021
Other than the swearing in of MSPs and the election of a new presiding officer and her deputies, three urgent questions this afternoon marked the first meaningful business in the new Scottish Parliament since last week's Holyrood election.
The question on the SQA came from Mr Greene, who asked the Scottish government "what its response is to the reported growing and widespread concern over the 2021 SQA examination, assessment and awards process, which has been described as an 'unfolding debacle' by the author of the review into the 2020 SQA exam diet".
In the lengthy statement on its website released this afternoon, the SQA said: "We want to reassure students that everyone in Scottish education is working hard on their behalf to ensure that the ACM [alternative certification model] allows learners to achieve fair and credible grades, with every step possible being taken to ensure young people’s wellbeing is protected through the process."
The statement added: "Our key message to learners is that your grades will be judged by your teachers and lecturers, based on your assessment evidence, and every effort is being made to ensure equity and support your wellbeing throughout the process."