SQA plans to run ‘full exam diet’ next year, says Swinney

Exams in schools were cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Education secretary John Swinney has said the SQA plans to run a full exam diet in 2021.

Exams in schools were cancelled this year because of the pandemic, having previously been held every year since 1888.

Teacher predictions were moderated by the SQA, resulting in a methodology that disproportionately affected pupils from deprived backgrounds.

A week after exam results were sent out, Swinney announced grades would be reverted back to original teacher predictions.

As a result of the changes, the National 5 pass rate was 88.9%, the Higher pass rate was 89.2% and the Advanced Higher pass rate was 93.1% – up from 78.2%, 74.8% and 79.4% respectively in 2019.

Compared with the moderated results, these increased by 7.8, 10.3 and 5.5 percentage points respectively.

In a Q&A with the National Parent Forum of Scotland on Thursday, Swinney said plans were currently to hold a full exam diet in 2021.

He explained: “Our objective is to run a full 2021 exam diet.

“SQA have consulted on what steps they could take to reduce the burden of assessments before the exam diet – what elements could be removed.

“We’ve also looked at the timetable of exams. Do they need to start in late April? Could they start at the end of May, giving them an extra month for learning and teaching.

“We’ve looked at those and the SQA is currently considering the response.”

Mr Swinney added that his main priority was fairness, saying: “I can’t foresee how much disruption there will be between now and next spring, either on individual, class or school-level.

“I am determined to ensure every student has fairness and a fair crack at the whip next year, no matter their experience.”

Swinney also apologised again for the “stress and anxiety” caused by the moderated grades.

He said: “When it became apparent there were a number of unfair outcomes, I took the decision to direct the SQA to base exam results on the basis of teacher estimates, to recognise the challenges pupils faced.

“I recognise that it caused a lot of stress and anxiety on young people and I reiterate my apology for that.

“We didn’t want to cause that stress and for that I unreservedly apologise.”

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