Scottish education: Parents like me won't forgive authorities if replacement exams damage pupils' futures – Steve Cardownie
As I write, my son is sitting an “exam” at his high school.
This despite countless assurances that teacher assessments would be used to determine grades this year as Higher and Advanced Higher exams were scrapped.
Parents and pupils were informed that “tests” would be used as an indication of the pupil’s academic level and that they would be taken into account when teachers decide what grade should be awarded.
Well, the so-called “tests” that are being held at present appear to be Higher exams in all but name as school pupils try to cram in as much revision as they possibly can, keenly aware of just how important the results may be.
After months of Covid-enforced absence from school, they are now earnestly striving to perform as well as previous students did with the benefit of an uninterrupted education.
The Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA), which represents about 6,500 high school headteachers and staff, recently conducted a survey of its members and found that 75 per cent of teachers felt that pupils had difficulties providing suitable evidence to be taken into account in assessments.
Worryingly, 85 per cent said that “collection, marking and moderation of evidence” had produced “substantial additional workload for their pupils” with 92 per cent saying that the whole process had added to the stress of their pupils.
Little wonder then that just 20 per cent of teachers hold the view that the ‘alternative certification model’ as mapped out by the Scottish Qualifications Authority is a fair and reasonable system of assessment while the vast majority, 76 per cent, want their professional judgement to be the major factor in this year’s assessments.
The Scottish government may well say that this is indeed what should happen but the fact that so many in the teaching profession feel that it has to be emphasised as their preferred method is a clear indication that the message is not getting through.
Whatever message is getting through is muddled and obviously not clear enough that teachers are afforded flexibility when assessing their pupils. They must not be led by the SQA to place undue weight on so-called “test” results.
Even then there may be huge difficulties in awarding pupils the grades they deserve as Seamus Searson, the SSTA’s general secretary, pointed out when he said that worryingly only 36 per cent of his members believed that the evidence that they have collected truly demonstrated their pupil’s attainment.
He said that this “highlights the potentially high number of pupils who will get grades lower than would have been expected in a normal year”.
If so, then teachers must be allowed to use their unfettered professional judgement and consideration of personal circumstances when determining pupil’s grades.
This bloody pandemic is responsible for a myriad of tragic outcomes, some too horrible to contemplate and the educational prospects of the youth of today may be overlooked in some circles given the circumstances – but it is imperative that they are given due consideration.
Like many parents, I am concerned that my son’s education may be irreparably damaged and like many parents I will not easily forgive those in authority who have sleepwalked into being part of the problem rather than the solution.