The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has insisted this afternoon that there is no need to "replicate full formal exams or prelims this year".
It has published a statement on its website, amid growing concerns among teachers and students that they are being asked to run and sit what are effectively exams, despite the official 2021 SQA exam diet having been cancelled in full on 8 December as a result of the Covid pandemic.
The SQA statement comes after first minister Nicola Sturgeon said last week that "there is no requirement to replicate a full exam or prelim this year", a statement described by one school leader as "disingenuous".
Exams or teacher judgement? What Nicola Sturgeon said last week
The SQA tweeted this afternoon that the update published on its website is from the National Qualifications 2021 Group, whose members include representatives of schools, further education colleges, the EIS teaching union, students, parents and the Scottish government.
Covid: No need for schools to replicate exams, says SQA
The statement starts by acknowledging that "the post-Easter term will be a busy and challenging one for everyone", and that "many learners, parents and carers will have questions and will be looking for guidance and support".
The SQA also states: "There is no requirement to replicate full formal exams or prelims this year. Classroom-based assessments should be spread over the remaining weeks to help manage the marking and quality-assurance activities as well as reduce pressure on learners.
"A flexible and consistent framework has been created, including detailed guidance, material and support, based on assessment standards that teachers and lecturers are familiar with. This should enable schools, colleges and training providers to deliver the assessment evidence which suits their cohort's circumstances.
"It is important that learners are aware of the arrangements being put in place for them and what assessment evidence may count towards their provisional results. Assessment opportunities should not be one-off, high-stakes scenarios and should accommodate, as far as possible, the maximum opportunity for learners to perform well. This includes providing assessment arrangements for those who need additional support or who have been shielding."
The National Qualifications 2021 Group has published an update about the second stage of the Alternative Certification Model that will be used to award this year's National 5, Higher, and Advanced Higher courses - you can read the statement here https://t.co/svaA6RUHoA #SQA2021 pic.twitter.com/DfLzqPoare— SQA (@sqanews) April 13, 2021
The SQA also advises that "to minimise workload, teachers and lecturers should refer to the subject-specific guidance documents published by SQA".
It adds: "Evidence should be gathered under controlled conditions to ensure a degree of equity. It is the quality of evidence which is critical, rather than quantity, and therefore there is no need for a large portfolio or ring-binder of classroom-based work."
The SQA also lists a number of "key elements" of the process for the coming weeks, including that "on a proportionate basis, SQA will select courses from each school and college for national quality assurance and provide subject-specific feedback. A broad indication of the volume of courses that a centre can expect to be selected for and information on how to submit digital evidence where this is available will be published on 23 April 2021".
The SQA advises that, during that period, it will "issue further information on how to submit the provisional results".
The statement concludes: "We will continue to provide further information about each stage of the model and remain committed to working together during this difficult time to deliver fair and credible results for learners across Scotland. Thank you for all your hard work."
One teacher responding on Twitter to the SQA statement said "a pretention that the next five weeks are not mostly assessment-focused is disengenous".
Meanwhile, the SQA also tweeted today about a podcast in which it had "teamed up [with the Scottish Youth Parliament and the National Parent Forum of Scotland] to answer some of your big questions and help ease your worries surrounding the 2021 National Qualifications".
The @OfficialSYP, @parentforumscot and SQA have teamed up to answer some of your big questions and help ease your worries surrounding the 2021 National Qualifications. Listen to the podcast now https://t.co/5zk1zNVrjW #SQANQ2021 #SQA2021 pic.twitter.com/5vpUHkQTQ7— SQA (@sqanews) April 13, 2021