Edinburgh MSP asks pupils about their experience and views of controversial SQA assessments

Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson is writing to all 16 and 17 year-olds in his constituency to ask them about their views and experiences over SQA assessments amid concerns pupils are effectively being required to sit exams.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 7:00 am

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Last year national exams had to be cancelled because of the Covid pandemic and the attempt to award qualifications turned into a fiasco when pupils found their grades had been decided by a Scottish Qualifications Authority algorithm, with pupils from poorer areas arbitrarily downgraded, before the Scottish Government did a U-turn and reverted to teacher assessments instead.

Cancelling National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams for a second year, ministers promised there would be no repeat of the debacle this summer and announced early on that qualifications would be awarded on the basis of teacher assessments alone.

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The SQA assessments have been branded exams in all but name

But the SQA said evidence would be needed to back up teachers’ judgements and it issued assessment tests to be used under exam conditions.

That led to complaints that the assessments were exams in everything but name and that pupils had none of the benefits of study leave or a spread-out timetable which they could normally expect with crucial exams.

In response, the government has insisted the judgement of teachers will be the determining factor in deciding final grades and these will not be overturned by the SQA.

Mr Johnson’s letter asks the teenagers for their views and experience of this year’s arrangements, whether positive or negative, and gives a link to an online survey which he hopes they will complete.

It asks them to rate the information and support they received as well as the format, fairness and experience of the assessments.

Mr Johnson said: "For the second year running, SQA assessment has been a major source of stress and anxiety for young people. I am concerned about expectations being set incorrectly and the huge pressure the slew of mini-exams is placing on students.

"I want to hear from those affected to understand the issues they have face so I can make representations to the highest levels of government. SNP ministers and the SQA must be held accountable for another year of qualifications chaos."

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