March decision on Scottish school exams would be ‘far too late’ – Tory MSP

Tory shadow education secretary Oliver Mundell said delaying a decision to March on whether school exams would go ahead is unacceptable.

Mark Davey
Sunday 09 January 2022 18:32
Scottish Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said a decision would be taken by March (Jane Barlow/PA)
Scottish Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said a decision would be taken by March (Jane Barlow/PA)

A March deadline for whether Scottish school exams will go ahead is “far too late”, the shadow education secretary has said

Tory MSP Oliver Mundell spoke out after the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show that the latest a decision would be made is March.

Ms Somerville was asked when the decision would be made to give children and teachers some certainty, and she replied: “The very latest we think it can be made is the end of March but it doesn’t have to wait until then.”

Ms Somerville added: “That is still very much the intention.”

Mr Mundell said: “The SNP appear to have learned no lessons from the last exams’ fiasco.

Oliver Mundell has criticised the Scottish Government (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA)

“March is far too late to ask pupils and teachers to prepare adequately.

“A third year of last-minute disruption is unacceptable.

“It would mean many pupils going through the entire senior phase with this cloud over them.

“Instead of unhelpful speculation the SNP should instead be focusing on keeping our schools open and keeping our kids in classrooms where they learn best.”

Ms Somerville added: “We would make it clear right from the start that modifications have already been put in place to take account of the fact that learning is still being disrupted.

“The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) made that announcement before the (2021) summer holidays.

“Very importantly they are still keeping in close contact with stakeholders to see if any of the contingencies that the SQA have designed need to be put in place.

“We have two contingencies, one if we get to the exam diet, and, for public health reasons, exams can’t take place, the young people would have professional judgment of the teachers being used based on evidence.

“We also have another contingency that is ready to be used if necessary if we see even further disruption to learning over the next couple of terms but that children can still have exams.

“These contingencies are always in place and they are being very closely monitored, particularly, to see whether we are at the tipping point, between the mitigations at the moment and whether a contingency has to be put in place.

“There is obviously very close assessment of different measures, whether it is absence rates, disruption to learning and how things are going in general around school.

“A basket of measures are constantly being looked at by the SQA.

“If they feel that they are at that point, and in consultation with ministers, and with the National Qualifications 22 group, that includes parents and young people and the unions, to make sure that they are all onboard and recognise the decisions that the SQA are taking and why they are taking them.

“We will keep this under very, very close review, because I understand that the build-up to exams is a stressful time for young people in any year but in a Covid year even more so.”

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