It’s a Fail for Scotland’s Education

It’s a Fail for Scotland’s Education

Exams are the best and fairest way to judge a child’s progress – so cancelling them in Scotland next year will do major harm.

The Higher and Advanced Higher exams – the equivalent of A-Levels – will not go ahead, and neither will the National 5 exams – the equivalent of GCSEs.

Instead, results will be based on teacher assessments, which will not result in accurate grading.

One of the benefits of exams is that everybody takes the same tests and they are marked by trained experts who have clear guidance. There is also an appeals system so that papers can be re-marked.

This creates the fairest way to judge attainment levels and to do away with them will create problems down the line with universities and employers finding it hard to judge what a grade actually means.

It is possible to use coursework as well, but this ought to be carried out under exam conditions and be time-limited.

Without coursework being done in a supervised way, some children can gain an unfair advantage.

Those from wealthier families might benefit from tutors, while educated parents or those at home with time on their hands can really help their children.

Neither of these options are available to those from poorer and less privileged backgrounds.

Also available for those doing coursework are companies that will help students write essays; again, something only those from wealthier homes can benefit from and this also opens up the possibility of cheating and plagiarism which is totally unacceptable.

Even if coursework were to be used, and it could be properly administered there should still be exams involved to ensure the fairest outcomes.

Scotland will now have two years in which there is widespread grade inflation.

This is not the fault of the teachers who will judge as accurately as they can, but evidence shows us this is difficult to do and grade inflation is always the result.

Teacher assessed grades cannot work because there is no way to standardise them across the whole of a country.

It really comes down to ‘impression marking’. Guidance may be issued but there is no way that the grades can be seen as fair across the board.

We already know that grades have been inflated this year and the statistics tell us this because the results can be compared with previous years.

In Scotland, National 5s saw 81.1% of pupils getting an A to C grade compared with 78.2% in 2019.

The Higher pass rate rose from 74.8% to 78.9% and Advanced Higher increased from 79.4% to 84.9%.

And these grades would have been even higher if the estimates from teachers had been taken without some moderation.

It was clear to me that cancellation of exams this year would have disastrous consequences – and it was totally unnecessary.

Many of the schools were either partially or completely empty for months and it would have been perfectly possible for them to have held their exams in a socially distanced and safe manner. Many other countries did just that.

I believe the pandemic is likely to be over by the time these examinations would have been taken, so this decision has been made without proper consideration of the consequences.

The Scottish education system is already in a lot of difficulties largely due to poor handling by the SNP.

The disastrous, highly progressive ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ that has been running since 2010 has seen Scotland tumbling down the PISA world rankings.

At one time Scotland’s education system was the envy of the world, but no longer.

Cancelling more exams is just one more poor decision. It feeds into the hands of those in the progressive educational field who want no exams – or very few of them.

The examinations should go ahead in my opinion.

Those children who will struggle to reach their potential should be supported and helped more than the privileged. This will ensure the system is fairer.

Rather than lower standards, we should always raise children’s attainment.

Without clear standards, Scottish universities will be viewed as substandard in the same way that their schooling system is fast becoming.