Precautions against swine flu as 'contact' made in Scotland

8th May 2009 at 01:00

One scottish pupil sat exams in isolation this week as a precautionary measure after being in contact with a possible case of swine flu.

But the message from the Scottish Government was that it was still business as usual for exam arrangements in Scotland as long as no cases were confirmed in its schools.

As the five-week Scottish Qualifications Authority exams got underway this week, the focus was on minimising disruption.

In a separate case, a pupil at Hermitage Academy in Helensburgh was named last week as a "contact" but has not developed into a "case", said the Scottish Government.

In England, however, five schools and a nursery have been shut after pupils became ill with the A(H1N1) strain of flu.

Exam regulators south of the border said pupils who could not sit GCSE or A Level exams would be awarded grades based on other evidence, such as coursework or predicted marks.

There are also fears for the Sats tests, due to be taken by 600,000 11-year-olds next week. Jim Knight, the Westminster Schools Minister, urged schools not to panic and rush to close unless they had received specific advice from the Health Protection Agency.

The Scottish Government has refused to divulge details of its contingency plans, saying only that they are under review if the situation changes. "Clearly, England is in a different position with confirmed cases in schools," said a spokesman.

However, the Scottish Government and the SQA held discussions last Friday with government representatives for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the higher education admissions body UCAS, and other UK awarding bodies, to agree a common approach, if required.

That will be taken as an indication that, should cases develop in Scottish schools, the SQA is likely to follow similar action and award grades to pupils on the basis of coursework and teachers' predictions.

A Government spokeswoman said: "The SQA has procedures in place to cater for candidates who cannot sit their exams for any reason. If this procedure is invoked, it would look at what is termed `alternative evidence' and an award and a grade could be made on the basis of course work and performance in the preliminary exam.

"The SQA's priority would be to ensure that candidates be treated fairly and not be disadvantaged and that their work assessed and qualifications awarded in line with recognised frameworks."

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