Scottish National 5 exams will be now CANCELLED in 2021

Scottish National 5 exams will be now CANCELLED in 2021 due to Covid – with teachers set to award grades for thousands of pupils instead

  • Education Secretary John Swinney said ‘it would not be fair’ to press ahead 
  • The Scottish Government said the changes will halve the amount of exams 
  • It will also create space to push back Higher and Advanced Higher exams 

Scotland’s National 5 exams have been scrapped for 2021 and will be replaced with coursework and teacher assessments.

Education Secretary John Swinney said ‘it would not be fair’ to press ahead with the exams because of the disruption to learning during the pandemic.

He also said that axing the tests would halve the amount of exams taking place and help to ‘lower public health risks’.

It will also create space in the timetable to push back Higher and Advanced Higher exams, which will now begin two weeks later on May 13.  

His announcement came shortly after Nicola Sturgeon’s decree for all pubs and restaurants across the country’s central belt to shut from Friday as she ramps up her war on the resurgent virus.

Education Secretary John Swinney (pictured today with Nicola Sturgeon) said ‘it would not be fair’ to press ahead with the exams because of the disruption to learning by the pandemic

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Swinney said: ‘Due to the level of disruption already caused by Covid, and due to the likely disruption faced by some or all pupils and students this academic year, a full exam diet is simply too big a risk. It would not be fair.’

He added: ‘Given the real risk of further disruption to education, it would not be sensible or fair to plan for a full exam diet in 2021. Coronavirus has not gone away. If anything, it is making a comeback.’  

The Scottish Education Secretary insisted an algorithm would not be used in the pupils’ assessment. 

Instead National 5 awards will be based on up to four pieces of work per subject that will be formally graded by teachers. 

Mr Swinney said: ‘By replacing National 5 exams, we can hold an exam diet for Highers and Advanced Highers if public health guidance allows – these are the qualifications most pupils leave schools with that determine paths into work, college, or university.

John Swinney (pictured in Holyrood yesterday) insisted an algorithm would not be used in the pupils’ assessment

‘None of us can predict the coming weeks and months, so clear contingency plans are being developed should, for public health reasons, the exams have to be replaced. 

‘In those circumstances and only if necessary, we will award Higher and Advanced Higher grades based on teacher judgement, supported by SQA quality assurance, taking account of assessment evidence.’ 

Between two and four pieces of work for every subject will be required from pupils, with Mr Swinney saying guidance from the SQA will ’emphasise quality, not quantity’.

In August, the Scottish Government was criticised after exam results grades were based on a computer model, and 124,564 pupils were downgraded.

Minister later changed their mind and original estimates of teachers were allowed to stand for those who were downgraded.

Students protested in August outside Scottish Parliament after results were determined by algorithms 

Mr Swinney said an award ‘would not be given or taken away’ in future on the basis of a computer model or the past performance of schools, as was the case in this year’s system.

He added: ‘There will be no algorithm. Awards will be based on the progress of our young people and their work.

‘This work and the judgment of the teacher, supported by appropriate quality assurance to maintain standards, will be the evidence on which grades are based.’

But Scottish Tory education spokesman Jamie Greene told Mr Swinney he believes a full exam diet could still run next year, although he welcomed the fact a decision had been taken on the matter early.

He added: ‘I’m not convinced that full justification has been offered in today’s statement for the cancellation of National 5s.

‘It does feel like the towel has been thrown in already.’

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said the statement was ‘very, very late’, adding: ‘Teachers are months into teaching courses without knowing exactly what they should be teaching, how pupils will be assessed and what evidence they should have been gathering.

‘They were told that exams would go ahead but then that a final decision had not been reached.

‘They were told courses would be amended to account for lost time but not how, while days weeks and months passed by.’

The Scottish Greens pushed for the scrapping of all exams.

In a statement after Mr Swinney addressed Parliament, the party’s education spokesman Ross Greer said ‘I cannot for the life of me work out why the Education Secretary hasn’t done the same with Highers.’

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