More details emerge of exam cancellation plans

Reports suggest National 5 exams could be cancelled but that some form of Higher and Advanced Higher exams may go ahead

Tes Reporter

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Fresh details have emerged over the possible cancellation of 2021 Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) exams.

Tes Scotland reported on Wednesday that cancellation of exams was looking increasingly likely, with an announcement now expected before the October holidays.

Today, it is being reported that the most likely scenario is National 5 exams being cancelled but some form of Higher and Advanced Higher exams going ahead.


Earlier this week: Was this the day we learned 2021 exams won't go ahead?

SQA exams 2021: Heads' group calls for cancellation and shortening of exams

We ask Nicola Sturgeon: Are we headed for second exams fiasco?

Tes Scotland Podcast: Reporting during a pandemic


The plans are reportedly being considered by education secretary and deputy first minister John Swinney, who is expected to make an announcement on exams before the school October holidays.

Coronavirus: Will SQA exams go ahead next year?

The decision will be informed by the findings of a review into this year’s exam fiasco, which is being conducted by University of Stirling professor of education Mark Priestley and is expected to be with Mr Swinney by the end of September. An overdue SQA report on the running of 2021 exams and courses is also expected soon.

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene, in comments reported in The Times, said: “All the stops must be pulled out to deliver a full exam diet next year where possible.

“If that is not happening, then the onus is on John Swinney to explain to parents, pupils and teachers why he can’t do that.”

Scottish Labour’s Iain Gray said: “The legacy of the [2020] results debacle must be that any changes for next year are clearly communicated to pupils and teachers as quickly as possible. If there are to be alterations to the curriculum, additional coursework requirements or amended exam plans, then these must be confirmed as a matter of urgency.

“Above all, pupils and teachers must know exactly what evidence they need to gather for assessments if exams do not happen. We cannot have another fiasco like this year’s.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, has repeatedly warned for several months that it would be "impossible" to run exams as normal next year.

Meanwhile, there have been growing calls from secondary headteachers for the cancellation or shortening of all SQA exams planned for 2021.

Mr Swinney told the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee this week that he faced a dilemma over whether next year’s exams should go ahead, given the risk of further coronavirus disruption, but that he would make a decision soon,

The Scottish Greens have been at the centre of calls for next year’s exams to be scrapped, and there is support among headteachers for exploring whether traditional exams should be stopped permanently.

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