Power cut knocks out SQA services as pupils await exam support

The Scottish Qualifications Authority's office in Dalkeith was hit with an outage on Monday.

SQA power cut knocks out services as teachers and pupils await exam revision support iStock

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has been hit with a power cut knocking out some of its services the week it is expected to deliver much-anticipated revision support materials for high school children sitting exams.

The electricity outage at the Lowden site in Dalkeith has caused disruption to services but could last until 9am on Tuesday, the examination body said.

It comes the week the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is due to deliver revision materials to teachers across the country that will inform the next four weeks of teaching before exams are set to begin.

After the Scottish Government stated its “firm intention” to hold National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams this Spring, the SQA announced it would reveal what content pupils will get questions on in their test papers for several subjects.

Due to ongoing disruption in schools, including some temporary closures and record levels of students and teacher absence due to Covid-19, “Scenario 2 contingency” was invoked.

The government said “revision support” would be made available in early March – and many teachers and pupils were eager to find out what it was to help inform their studying.

But on Monday, some teachers were left concerned.

“We were hoping to know today so teachers could really focus their teaching for the next four weeks,” an English teacher told STV News.

“The longer it takes to get to us, the more unnecessary teaching that will have to happen ‘just in case’. Which leaves us with maybe only three weeks until Easter to make sure students are best prepared.”

For subjects such as accounting, business or geography, advance notice of what content will or will not be assessed will be shared with pupils.

For others, such as biology or English, only some exam content will be revealed in advance and the remainder, such as chemistry or computing, will receive no advance notice at all, with students offered what the SQA calls a “study guide” instead.

One social subjects teacher called the situation “utterly shambolic”.

In a tweet on Monday afternoon, the SQA said: “We anticipate there will be continuing disruption to some of our services as a result of the power outage at our Lowden site.

“We are hopeful that services will be restored by 9am tomorrow.”

The exams body asked those affected to get in touch using the contact details on its website.

The subjects that will receive advance notice of content that will be assessed are:

  • Accounting
  • Administration and IT
  • Business Management
  • Care
  • Childcare and Development
  • Higher Drama
  • Economics
  • National 5 and Higher English (question paper 2 – Scottish Text)
  • Environmental Science (essay topic choice)
  • Graphic Communication
  • Media
  • Music
  • Music Technology
  • Philosophy

The subjects that will receive advance notice of some of the content that will be assessed or topics that they will not be asked about are:

  • Applications of Mathematics
  • Biology
  • Human Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics

The subjects that will receive just a study guide are:

  • Higher Art and Design
  • Chemistry
  • Classical Studies
  • Computing Science
  • Geography
  • Design and Manufacture
  • National 5 Drama
  • History
  • Engineering Science
  • Fashion and Textile Technology
  • Health and Food Technology
  • Modern Studies
  • Physics
  • Politics
  • Practical Cake Craft
  • Practical Cookery
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

For languages, students will be given advance notice of contexts that will be assessed.

The SQA exam timetable is due to start on April 26 with prelims already underway.

The SQA also announced a series of measures that “acknowledge the disruption caused by the pandemic”.

There will be back-up for learners who are unable to attend their an exam due to illness or bereavement, grading will take into account the impact of the pandemic, and, once results have been published, learners will have free direct access to appeal.

Previously, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, welcomed the SQA’s package of support.

The EIS argued that there should not be a return to “high stakes” exams this year given the risk of further Covid disruption and the “inequalities” that characterise the exam system.

The SQA has been asked for comment.

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