Any alternative to exams for awarding secondary school grades will be “fair to all pupils”, the Education Secretary has said.
Next year’s National 5 exams have been cancelled, while those for Higher and Advanced Higher are provisionally due to go ahead in May.
A decision will be made by mid-February on whether the Higher and Advanced Higher exam diet will take place.
John Swinney told MSPs on Holyrood’s Education Committee work is ongoing to develop an alternative system for awarding grades.
After controversy over the awarding of grades earlier this year, Mr Swinney told the MSPs: “Results will not be given or taken away on the basis of a statistical model or on the basis of a school’s past performance.”
He said a working group including local councils, education unions and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is looking at how National 5 courses will be assessed and “contingency measures” should the Higher and Advanced Higher exam diets not go ahead.
The Education Secretary said: “It’s important that the awarding process is fair to all pupils and that no pupil is disadvantaged by circumstances outwith their control.”
The SQA will also review the process for pupils appealing their grades, he added.
In response to a question from Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, he said he “unreservedly” accepted there was a problem with applying the statistical model to this year’s qualifications.
Earlier on Wednesday morning, the committee heard from Professor Mark Priestley, who carried out a review into the issues around exams during the pandemic.
He said many in the education sector felt the SQA lacked transparency and did not trust others with technical details.
Prof Priestley said: “It maybe stems from a cultural expectation within the organisation that the expertise resides with them and it doesn’t reside elsewhere.
“And that may work perfectly well in normal years.
“But in the year of a pandemic, extraordinary circumstances and extraordinary measures, then perhaps there was a need for a more open, collaborative working approach.”
Asked about the SQA at the later session of the committee, Mr Swinney said: “I think what we all have to accept that the SQA, invariably every year, has to be an organisation that gives out news to people that they would rather not receive.
“Because they are saying to some pupils ‘I’m afraid you didn’t get the grades that you were looking for’.
“That’s tough and difficult but it had to be done if we want to maintain standards throughout our examination system.”