There is a “very real risk” of further disruption to Scottish school exams despite plans to hold a full exam diet next year, John Swinney has said.
The education secretary said the “uncertainty” caused by coronavirus meant the Scottish Government’s education recovery group and the SQA are looking at contingencies for if exams next spring are disrupted.
Speaking to MSPs on Holyrood’s education committee, Swinney said the potential risks to the exam diet made “identifying a fair and robust approach” for pupil assessment “an incredibly difficult decision”.
As things stand, the SQA intends to run a full exam diet for the academic year 2020-21.
School exams 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 and sparked a huge backlash.
A week after exam results were sent out, Swinney apologised to pupils and announced grades would be reverted back to original teacher predictions.
He then faced a no confidence vote in the Scottish Parliament over his handling of the crisis, which he survived.
Swinney told MSPs: “I’m keenly aware that the sector wants clarity with regards to how national qualifications in 2021 will be assessed.
“The very real risk remains that there may be further disruption for individual learners, individual schools and colleges, or more widely across the country during the course of the year.
“There is no way of knowing what circumstances we will face in the spring of next year when, in normal circumstances, the exam diet would take place.
“That uncertainty and risk of further disruption makes identifying a fair and robust approach an incredibly difficult decision and there are a wide range of views on the best approach to take.”
The education secretary continued: “Our ambition remains to run a 2020-21 examination diet, however, in these exceptional times the SQA and the education recovery group are looking at contingencies which will be appropriate to the circumstances.
“This is especially relevant as we are currently seeing a disturbing increase in the number of cases of coronavirus which has the potential to cause further disruption.”