Education experts call for public review of Scottish school assessment following Covid-19 pandemic

An independent group of education experts has called for a full-scale public review of assessment in schools following the two-year disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 7:00 am

The Commission on School Reform, an independent group of education experts set up by the think-tank Reform Scotland, said the two-year exam shutdown due to the pandemic gave Scotland an opportunity to consider how students are assessed.

“Coronavirus has been an enormous and sadly enduring cloud over Scottish education and our current generation of school pupils,” said Carole Ford, former head teacher and member of the Commission on School Reform.

“However, we must try to take advantage of this opportunity for review and improvement, particularly in relation to assessment for qualifications.”

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School pupils have missed two years' worth of exam assessments due to Covid 19. Picture: PA

The call comes after the EIS teaching union accused the Scottish Government of putting a “good news” story ahead of teachers’ wellbeing by announcing two weeks ago that S1 to S3 pupils were to return to schools part-time from March 15.

Plans had already been set out to bring the remainder of primary school children, and those in S4 and upwards, back to school full time from Monday.

Andrea Bradley, assistant secretary of the EIS union, told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show the partial return of S1 to S3 at such short notice had led to increased workload for teachers already under pressure.

The union accused the Scottish Government of making the surprise announcement in a bid to distract from Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence to the Alex Salmond inquiry the following day.

“We felt the decision seemed to be more of a political one rather than one that was based on sound educational principle," Ms Bradley said.

"It wasn’t one that was taking account of the very real circumstances in which teachers are currently working and have been working, under really quite significant stress and pressure over the last six months or so.”

Ms Bradley added: “Our sense was that the government was looking for a good news story that week and the reopening of schools on this kind of scale was certainly one way of providing that story.”

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She said teachers had previously put effort into preparing for the return of more senior pupils due to take national exams, and the new announcement left teachers and schools “with a large number of priorities to try to address over a relatively short space of time”.

Education secretary John Swinney denied the announcement had been politically motivated.

“We were concerned about the wellbeing of S1 to S3 pupils who might feel excluded from the return to school if we didn’t give them some opportunity for face-to-face learning before the Easter holidays,” he said.

"That was the one and only motivation that the government had.”

Asked about the effect of the change on teachers, Mr Swinney replied: “What’s important I think is that we focus on the needs of young people, and the needs of young people are absolutely central to my consideration of all of these issues.”

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Jamie Greene said: "It is startling to hear a senior teaching union official effectively accuse Nicola Sturgeon of using Scotland's school pupils for political distraction."

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