No additional assessments if exams cancelled, vows SQA

Running additional assessments would ‘place excess workload on teachers, lecturers and learners’, SQA says

Emma Seith

No additional assessments if exams cancelled, vows SQA

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has sought to further reassure teachers, lecturers and students that there will be no requirement to run additional assessments this year if the coronavirus pandemic once again forces the cancellation of national exams.

The body has also said that students are likely to retain the direct right to appeal their grades – as opposed to having to go through their school – if the exams are cancelled again in 2022.

The Scottish government has said that, if it is safe to do so, national exams will run next year. However, it has put two contingencies in place in the event of further disruption to education. One is that there could be more modifications to course content and assessment, the other is that teachers will once again be responsible for grading their students.


Background: External exams to go ahead in 2022 ‘if safe to do so’

Related: Exam contingency will require no extra assessments

News: Petition calls for SQA to end 'exams in all but name'

Headteacher’s view: 'Teachers and students boxed in by assessment rules'


The SQA said last month when the decision was announced that there would be no requirement “to carry out any additional assessments” in the event the exams were cancelled. However, following the stress experienced by staff and pupils last year as a result of the SQA's evidence requirements the body is now rubber stamping that promise.

It says that – in the event of a cancellation – teacher grades will be based on “in-year assessments that normally take place...such as prelims, practical activities, performances and class tests”. And that if teachers are required to grade their pupils these results will be the same as the estimates they submit ahead of the exams in a normal year.

In a statement issued today, the SQA said: “The main focus for schools, colleges and training providers will continue to be learning and teaching, with assessment to support that process. With this in mind, and in preparation for the possibility that exams cannot go ahead, teachers and lecturers should use the type, quality and volume of evidence that would be needed to support quality assured estimates in a ‘normal’ year. This will also serve as the basis of the evidence needed to support the submission of provisional results if it is not possible to run exams.”

It added: “Under this approach there is no requirement for schools, colleges and training providers to run additional assessments. Doing so would place excess workload on teachers, lecturers and learners. Provisional results would be based on in-year assessments that normally take place during the school year such as prelims, practical activities, performances and class tests.”

The SQA said that it was preparing guidance for teachers on determining provision results should the exams be cancelled that would be published next month. It said that this would be “based on last year’s guidance on estimates”.

Last year the National 5 exams were cancelled in October, followed by Higher and Advanced Higher in December. However, the post-Christmas lockdown and school closures forced schools to collect all the evidence demanded by the SQA to support estimates in the summer term.

Students complained of being put through “exams in all but name”; there were also problems with students sharing the exam papers provided by the SQA online.

Fiona Robertson, SQA chief executive, said, “SQA remains committed to delivering for Scotland’s learners and supporting their teachers and lecturers. These measures, developed in consultation with the Scottish education system, will ensure the safe delivery of national courses this year. We are clearly setting out what support will be given to teachers, lecturers and learners under each scenario, as well as being clear what is expected of them while avoiding any additional workload or assessment. As the year progresses, public health advice will be regularly monitored, and updates provided quickly and clearly.”

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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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