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National 5 exams to be awarded on estimation basis

By David Porter

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The Scottish Government has set out is responses to the recommendations in the Rapid Review of National Qualifications Experience report 2020.

Professor Mark Priestley was commissioned to conduct a review of events following the cancellation of the examination diet in 2020.

A total of nine recommendations are contained within Professor Priestley’s report ‘Rapid Review of National Qualifications Experience 2020’ which has been madepublic today.

On the main recommendation which is to suspend the 2021 National 5 exam diet, with qualifications awarded on the basis of centre estimation based upon validated assessments, the government has accepted the proposal.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has accepted proposals for exams in 2021.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has accepted proposals for exams in 2021.

In the report it is explained: "Due to the level of disruption already caused and the level of disruption likely to be faced by some or all pupils and students this academic year, the risks of holding a full diet in 2021 are too great.

"The Deputy First Minister has decided to cancel National 5 examinations in 2021 and has asked Scotland’s Chief Examining Officer to develop an alternative approach to awarding National 5 qualifications that is based on exam centre estimates, based on teacher/lecturer judgements and supported by assessment resources and quality assurance at national and local level.

"Higher and Advanced Higher examinations in 2021 will go ahead.

"They will start on May 13, slightly later than is normal, therefore, allowing some additional learning time this academic year to make up for some of that lost at the end of 2019-20.

"Modifications to course assessment will also be made by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) following its consultation in order to maximise learning and teaching time.

"A clear contingency plan is being developed for Higher and Advanced Higher exams.

"This will include key check points up to the February break to assess public health advice and, if needed, Higher and Advanced Higher courses will be awarded based on teacher professional judgement, taking account of normal assessment evidence, and subject to quality assurance to ensure standards are maintained."

On the issue of the development of a nationally recognised, fully transparent and proportionate system for moderation of centre-based assessment, the proposal has also been accepted

The report states: "The Scottish Government recognises the key role of the SQA in maintaining the standards of qualifications and that external validation and quality assurance of teacher and lecture evidence is important in ensuring that results are as robust and fair as possible.

"The Deputy First Minister has asked the Chief Examining officer toensure that the alternative approach for the awarding of National 5 qualifications is based on teacher judgement supported by validated assessments.

"This approach is to include the provision of clear guidance for teachers, lecturers and exams centres on evidence gathering and estimation, with a clear focus on quality rather than quantity of that evidence; where possible, National 5 subject specific guidance that, includes key pieces of work that will inform their final grade; a support plan developed by the SQA, with Education Scotland, local authorities, regional improvement collaboratives and others to support a local and national approach to moderation and quality assurance, including the provision of assessment resources."

Speaking on the issue Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "This year we have more time to prepare, but some things are still the same.

"The virus remains with us, it is still as virulent, it is still as infectious.

"So, we cannot plan for business as usual, that is simply not possible.

"Work towards exams would normally start back in May when the schools were still closed so pupils have already lost a significant amount of precious teaching time.

"And, we cannot predict – no-one can - how much more time might be lost to Covid-19 in the coming months.

"We simply don’t know what Spring and Summer will look like in terms of the public health position.

"But, what we can do is three key things: we can learn from last year; we can consult our teachers and educationalists; and we can listen to the experts in the design of awarding systems.

"And in every decision we take, we can hold fast to our shared aim to build an approach that recognises the hard work of individual pupils fairly and consistently.

"It must be an approach that does not place undue burdens on them or on Scotland’s teachers.

"And, it has to be an approach that has the confidence of the public, of employers and of the rest of the education system."

He continued: "The SQA set out its initial proposals on modifications to assessments in 2021 and, it is fair to say, they have never seen a more extensive response.

"Thousands of individual submissions were received.

"I want to thank everyone who took the time to engage with that work.

"I have personally consulted with young people including with pupils in their senior phase who I spent valuable time in discussion with last Thursday.

"We have heard the views of parents, of teachers and of our colleges and universities and the issues have been discussed with stakeholders across our education system, including those represented on the Education Recovery and Qualifications Contingency Groups."

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