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by Louise Wilson
22 June 2021
Exams decision to be announced before start of school year

Exams decision to be announced before start of school year

A decision on whether exams will go ahead next year will be made before the start of the new school year, Scotland’s education secretary has confirmed.

Shirley-Anne Somerville has also said the decision to replace the national qualifications body, the SQA, would not impact the certification and awarding processes for the coming academic year.

The scrapping of the SQA was announced in response to an OECD review of the curriculum for excellence published on Monday, which recommended the government should consider creating a “specialist stand-alone agency responsible for curriculum (and perhaps assessment)”.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Somerville said: “I want to be in a position to confirm our central planning assumption for awarding qualifications in 2022 for the start of the school term in August, to give as much certainty for learners, teachers and the system as possible. This will take account of the latest state of the pandemic.”

It was also announced that Professor Ken Muir, the former chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, would be leading the work to deliver recommendations made by the OECD.

Muir will take up the post in August and will report back in six months’ time.

He will consider the creation of a new agency to replace the SQA, as well as how to move the inspection role out of Education Scotland.

The cabinet secretary also confirmed a new children and young people’s council would sit alongside the reconvened Scottish Education Council to ensure there was “parity of esteem” between the voices of young people and education experts. 

Scottish Labour has called for the education inspectorate to be made independent immediately via executive arrangement.

Education spokesman Michael Marra said the government “must put in place interim leadership to bring together the curricular functions of Education Scotland and the SQA by the middle of July so that arrangements for 2022 assessment can be on teachers’ desks when they return.”

Meanwhile the Scottish Conservatives expressed concern about the possibility of exams being scrapped for good.

The party’s education spokesman Oliver Mundell said: “Historically, rigorous exams have been a real strength of Scotland’s education system, a cornerstone of how we help young people to succeed in life […] No government serious about raising standards in our schools could contemplate such a radical break from tradition.”

The education secretary said the OECD was set to publish a second report by the end of August specifically considering how qualifications are awarded.

She said it was “fair and reasonable” for the government to be open to discussion on the contents of that report, including if it recommended an end to exams.

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