I expected better from the SNP than this betrayal of Scotland’s school pupils – Helen Martin

In the absence of normal exams, surely teachers are best placed to judge their pupils’ grades (Picture: PA)In the absence of normal exams, surely teachers are best placed to judge their pupils’ grades (Picture: PA)
In the absence of normal exams, surely teachers are best placed to judge their pupils’ grades (Picture: PA)
SCHOOLS have been one of the most complex and vital services to cope with during this pandemic.

Businesses have suffered, jobs have been lost, tourism has collapsed, the NHS has been overwhelmed, but one way or another all these things can be resolved if the virus turmoil eventually ends.

Reopening schools is going to be nightmarish. There’s no guarantee that all pupils will follow the rules, do as they’re told and maintain social distancing, especially as schools opening in other regions around the world have caused another contagion rise. But education is crucial so it has to restart.

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The first major issue that has flared up even before the doors opened, is how the Scottish Qualifications Authority has overruled teachers’ exam result assessments, and downgraded 125,000 results. Some senior pupils who longed for, or expected to, head on to university are shattered. The process has been seen as horrendously cruel.

It’s not surprising that with schools closed for months, and despite all the online efforts etc, education has been weakened. But it strikes me that the only people in a reasonable position to assess pupils were their teachers.

Previous exam results don’t always count. There are many teenagers in the past who squeezed through minimal passes but would have concentrated on study and revising furiously for the final, meaningful exam and soared through.

Others would have been expected to emerge with high ratings but could have been set back by school closure, and perhaps in a home situation where they couldn’t have privacy and individual space and time – if they’d had to achieve in an actual exam.

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Some may have performed lower than normal in previous exams if they’d been ill, lost someone in their family, or been through some other problems.

It’s not the case that the better off score highly and those in deprived areas are hopeless. We have lawyers, doctors and many professionals who came from a poor family, sometimes with parents who inspired them to study, or who inspired themselves to study, gain a degree and live a different life, or dreamed of having a specific career.

The people who know the pupils, know how they work and perform, know how they would have been likely to score in important exams in a normal situation rather than a shutdown, are their teachers, not the distant officials of the SQA.

Universities will certainly be longing for many new students when the new terms begin, especially as they are likely to have fewer from overseas. Perhaps they could have come up with an alternative assessment, judgement or interviews of applying students because it’s obvious that this year’s exam “results” are random.

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Leaving this to the SQA who came up with a “calculation” devoid of real assessments, was a poor policy (and I vote SNP). As Nicola Sturgeon says, this pandemic often causes mistakes which can be reviewed in future. But a future review won’t rescue betrayed pupils now.

Isn’t it possible that universities and colleges can alter acceptance qualifications, especially if an SQA exam diktat is accompanied with a letter from a teacher with a realistic assessment?

And shouldn’t we all be horrified by a decision to upgrade the well off and downgrade those from deprived areas? To me, that sounds more like a Tory plan – something that will infuriate Conservatives who are among the first to rage about this.

It is not what I would have expected from the SNP who are more left wing and socialist, less racist, more focused on equality, and more supporting of those on lower incomes. They must deal with this.

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