Schools told to prepare for more exam disruption next year

Education secretary John Swinney says coronavirus could have an impact on exams in spring 2021.

Schools are being told to put preparations in place in case the coronavirus pandemic impacts next year’s exams.

Education secretary John Swinney said work is under way for exams to be held in spring 2021.

But he warned the “ongoing impacts” of Covid-19 mean he cannot say “with absolute certainty” these will be able to take place, after this year’s were cancelled.

His comments came as he conceded the blended learning model – with pupils returning to classes part-time in August with some learning also being done from home – will mean “educational outcomes will be jeopardised”.

Swinney told MSPs on Holyrood’s education committee: “The current model for the delivery of education is not as effective as the model we had prior to Covid.”

SNP MSP Gail Ross told the education secretary a “lot of parents are absolutely dreading” the blended-learning system after “struggling” with home schooling.

Swinney said he wants children to be in school “for as close to 50%” as is possible, although he added in some circumstances this will not be possible because of the two-metre social distancing rule.

Going against the scientific advice on this will be a “recipe for anarchy in the way in which we pursue our approach”, he said.

But he stressed: “I don’t want the blended-learning model to go on for a minute longer than is required.

“I do not want this to be a long-term educational model for Scotland.

“I don’t think it is the best educational model but it is the best educational model in the circumstances that we face, because I can not ignore the public health advice and issues that we face.”

In case exams cannot take place for the second year in a row in 2021, Swinney said the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) had been in touch with schools to make staff aware of the need to gather information and evidence on students’ performance throughout the forthcoming academic year.

Further guidance will also be issued about “collecting information and evidence to support the judgments about the achievements of young people”.

The education secretary added: “Although we are planning for an exam diet I cannot say with absolute certainty that it will be able to take place.

“So we are asking schools to gather evidence on an ongoing basis to support judgments that may be required to be made in the spring of 2021.”

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