Thu 29 Oct, 2020

There is just no way to guarantee that the virus will be under control enough in May for these exams to go ahead Ross Greer

A new report which shows poorer pupils are more likely to miss classes due to COVID-19 demonstrates the need for this year’s Higher and Advanced Higher exams to be cancelled and replaced with a robust system of continuous assessment, the Scottish Greens have warned.

The research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) reveals that in Scotland, attendance rates in October were lowest among the 20 per cent most deprived pupils (89 per cent school attendance) and highest among the 20 per cent least deprived (95 per cent school attendance).

The report indicates that combination of continued pupil absences combined with variable levels of lost learning time during lockdown will make it "incredibly hard to implement a fair exam process anything like that in a normal year".

After pressure from the Scottish Greens, the Scottish Government cancelled next year’s National 5 exams earlier this month. However, Education Secretary John Swinney stated in the same announcement that Higher and Advanced Higher exams would go ahead as normal.

Commenting, Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer said: “This report makes the case for cancelling and replacing the Higher and Advanced Higher exams crystal clear.

"There is just no way to guarantee that the virus will be under control enough in May for these exams to go ahead, but as these numbers show, we are already past the point where COVID is not only having a serious impact but a deeply unequal one on young people’s learning.

"Pretending that exams can go ahead as if everything is normal risks repeating the mistakes of this year’s SQA debacle, disproportionately penalising young people from our most deprived communities.

“Instead of second guessing COVID and blindly hoping everything will be back to normal in Spring, John Swinney should give teachers and pupils some certainty now by replacing Higher exams with a continuous assessment system which can take into account the unique circumstances this year.”

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