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Scotland follows Wales’ lead and scraps exams because of covid

09 Dec 2020 3 minute read
Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash.

Scotland has followed Wales’ lead by deciding to scrap exams because ongoing issues caused by the covid pandemic.

The Scottish Government has announced that exams for Higher and Advanced Highers, are to be cancelled, which follows a move by the Welsh Government to scrap the 2021 exams for GCSE, AS and A-level back in November.

Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney said the decision was mad because of the covid disruption to the education system rather than safety concerns.

Higher and Advanced Highers are similar but not identical to AS and A-levels, and as is the case in Wales, pupils’ final grades will be based on the judgement of their teachers rather than an algorithm.

The country’s National 5 exams, which are broadly equivalent to GCSE’s had already been cancelled. Exams are currently still going ahead in England.

According to Mr Swinney many pupils had already lost “significant learning time” through having to self-isolate and had lost a lot of school before the summer holidays.

He said pupils from the poorest backgrounds were the most likely to have been affected by this.

Mr Swinney said: “I am therefore announcing today that there will be no Higher or Advanced Higher exams in 2021.

“Instead we will adopt the new model that has been developed and base awards on teacher judgement of evidence of learner attainment.

“This is safe, it is fair, and it better recognises the reality of the disruption so many pupils have already had to their learning”.



When a similar decision was announced in Wales, Education Minister Kirsty Williams said it was impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams due to the ongoing impact of the Covid pandemic.

According to Ms Williams, head teachers would work on a “national approach” to ensure consistency.

The assessments, which will be externally set and marked but delivered within the classroom, will be done under teacher supervision. They will begin in the second half of the spring term.

Ms Williams said: “The well-being of learners and ensuring fairness across the system is central in our decision making process.

“We remain optimistic that the public health situation will improve, but the primary reason for my decision is down to fairness; the time learners will spend in schools and colleges will vary hugely and, in this situation, it is impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams to take place.

“We have consulted with universities across the UK and they have confirmed that they are used to accepting many different types of qualifications.”

Ms Williams said it remained a “highly challenging year” but the announcement would remove pressures from learners and provide “clear time for teaching and learning”.

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