National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams will be brought back in 2022, the Scottish Government has said.
If it is safe to do so, pupils and students will take formal assessments in spring of next year during the traditional exam period.
The previous two exam diets were cancelled, with pupils being assessed on their work throughout the year, as a result of disruption brought by the coronavirus.
Opposition MSPs have slammed the arrangements as “shambolic” and “unfair” for teachers having to organise three “potential eventualities” by next May.
Requiring teachers to simultaneously plan for three separate eventualities may mean yet more workload strains.”
Beatrice Wishart, Lib Dem MSP for Shetland
Pupils and teachers started the return to the classroom for the 2021-2022 academic year this week.
Course content has been “reduced” to take account the challenges and disruption young people have faced, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has confirmed.
Full details of these changes and others set to be introduced will not be announced to those sitting exams until September.
But, should the coronavirus cause chaos again next year, contingencies are being put in place.
If it is deemed suitable, exams will still go ahead even if there is disruption, with “modifications” being brought in.
If public health conditions do not allow for an exam diet to take place, awards will be made on teachers’ judgements based on normal in–year assessment.
Exams will happen ‘if safe to do so’
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Exams will take place next year if safe to do so.
“Fairness for learners sitting exams in 2022 is at the heart of our plans. Assessment modifications across national courses for the next academic session have already been confirmed by the SQA in recognition of the disruption to learning that young people have experienced. We will set out details on further support available for learners in September.
“Careful contingency planning has taken place in case there is further significant disruption to learning or if public health conditions do not allow for the holding of an examination diet.
“These contingencies offer stability for teachers and learners in the coming academic session and will allow their focus to be on normal practices in teaching, learning and assessment. More detailed guidance will be issued by the SQA at the earliest opportunity.”
Teachers face ‘more strains’
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP said: “Requiring teachers to simultaneously plan for three separate eventualities may mean yet more workload strains. With some teachers still without jobs, the Scottish Government must make more permanent jobs available to help ease those burdens.
“While an announcement at this point in time is welcome, it will be difficult for teachers, pupils and parents to have faith in these plans when the system continues to be presided over by the same people who caused such disruption and upset both this year and last.
“The lack of accountability at the top chipped away at the little trust that was left. The SQA needs to be reformed for the recovery and that includes reconsidering who is in charge.”
‘Dereliction of duty’
Scottish Conservative Shadow Education Secretary Oliver Mundell MSP, added: “The SNP had the entire summer period to give clarity on exams. The fact that they have only now given this belated update after the majority of schools have returned is a dereliction of duty.
“SNP Ministers have still failed to give an outright guarantee that exams will definitely go ahead next year. That will only serve to create more uncertainty for pupils, teachers and parents who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic.
“The SNP have presided over a shambolic and chaotic exam system over the last couple of years. It has shamefully hit our poorest pupils the hardest.
“Exams remain the best and fairest way to determine what pupils know and what they can do. It is now imperative SNP Ministers put every measure in place to keep our schools as safe from the virus.
“That will give us the best chance of ensuring exams will go ahead as planned next year. Ministers must also urgently commit to retaining exams as part of Scotland’s education system going forward, not just for 2022.”
SQA to be scrapped
Earlier in the year Ms Somerville announced the SQA would be replaced, following a number of “debacles” surrounding exam results.
She previously said the Government would reform the Scottish Qualifications Authority, but following the publication of a report by the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) on the country’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) she announced in June the organisation would be replaced.
Ms Somerville announced Education Scotland would no longer be responsible for school inspections also, adding ministers would “look at what further reform” was needed for this organisation.