Coronavirus: parents urge early decision-making on higher testing

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Parents are calling for a decision on whether to cancel higher examinations before Christmas next year, despite concerns that if they proceed, learners will have no chance of achieving deserved grades.

A survey by the National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS) also showed that a majority of those with strong opinions agree that the 2021 tests should be abolished, with nearly three-quarters warning that the Covid 19 pandemic has seriously affected their child’s learning.

Next year’s National 5 tests have already been scrapped and will be replaced with teacher-estimated grades after Secretary of Education John Swinney said it would be “just too much of a risk” to conduct a complete test.

The Higher and Advanced Higher exams will proceed where possible, but if the government chooses to cancel them, “contingency plans” are being drawn up to allow the use of teacher estimates.

Swinney also said that a decision on whether to hold examinations in 2021 will be taken no later than the recess in February, and maybe earlier “if the evidence points that way.”

But the NPFS results show that a vast majority of parents and caregivers want clarification in the next four weeks, based on an examination of responses from 4,196 respondents, with three-quarters suggesting that a cancellation decision should come now (34.46 percent) or before Christmas (40.68 percent ).

Just over 74 percent thought that the learning of their child was greatly affected by the pandemic, although only about one in five (21.66 percent) replied “very much” or “a lot” when asked whether during the closure or self-isolation their child had received sufficient learning support.

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And nearly 57 percent of respondents worry that if they take exams as normal next year, their child won’t have a reasonable chance to receive the higher and – or – advanced higher grades they deserve.

In May 2021, slightly more than a quarter of respondents (26.57%) agree that the diet should continue. Just over half (50.60 percent) of respondents would like it to be canceled.

Just under 23 percent is undecided (22.83 percent).

“Vice Chair Barrie Sheppard, speaking on behalf of the NPFS, said, “We know from our correspondence with parents and caregivers around the country that our young people face daunting conditions in their day-to-day learning, with self-isolation taking a tremendous toll on the wellbeing and well-being of both students and workers at this crucial period in their lives.

“It is clear that parents and carers across the country believe that the current Higher and Advanced Higher exam diet for 2021 simply cannot provide fair and equal opportunities for all students and that the professional judgement of teachers will once again be required to support an alternative model of assessment.”

The findings of the survey come in the aftermath of the test results debacle earlier this year, after Mr Swinney agreed in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic to cancel the 2020 diet.

Thousands of students had their teacher-valued grades downgraded by the moderation phase of SQA, which took into account the previous success of schools and culminated in the hardest hitting of those from less wealthy backgrounds. A change of heart led to the original grades being restored.

The change to an alternative testing model for Highers and Advanced Highers would be wise “given the ongoing disruption suffered by some pupils and the continuing threat to the diet next year.” said Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, Scotland’s largest teachers’ union.

He added, “However, an early decision is needed so teachers and students can plan accordingly.”

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The call for a swift decision on the examinations was supported by members of the opposition at Holyrood.

“With many pupils’ learning disrupted by the pandemic, talk of extended Christmas holidays and the continued failure of SQA to provide timely guidance on the curriculum, Iain Gray, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman, said, “It is no wonder that many parents are worried about whether their children will be in the upcoming examinations.

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