Scotland’s exam’s body had advised schools to penalise pupils who share details of assessments online.
In an email sent out to schools, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said that “appropriate penalties should be applied” where “candidate malpractice” has been found.
With exams cancelled for the second successive year due to Covid, pupils’ Higher and National 5 grades are being determined by teacher estimates and a “quality assurance” procedure overseen by the Scottish Qualification Authority.
However, controversially, this has involved young people sitting in-class assessments which have been dubbed “exams in all but name”.
Thousands of comments
Thousands of youngsters having been using the social media platform to ask for tips on National 4, 5 and Higher assessments.
One post saw more than 3,000 users comment asking for hints on what questions would come up in the assessment papers.
Responses included details about the National 5 maths calculator paper, with users responding that the paper included certain questions on the curriculum.
Others claimed the National 5 geography paper included questions on a series of specific topics.
A “very serious incident”
In response to pupils sharing the material online, the SQA warned it was taking the issue “very seriously”.
Dr Gill Stewart, the SQA’s director of qualifications development, wrote: “SQA has been made aware of some very serious incidents involving candidates sharing confidential assessment content on social media.
“We are taking this matter very seriously and have contacted the centres to ensure the posts are removed as soon as possible and that any candidate concerns are managed locally within the centres.
“We wrote to all schools, colleges and training providers on Tuesday 20 April confirming the importance of maintaining the security of these assessment materials.”
The exam body also warned that pupils sitting assessments should not discuss or share any content from them with others to ensure the “integrity” of the assessments.
It also outlined that any “candidate malpractice concerns” should be managed locally by the school or college.
Dr Stewart continued: “If malpractice investigation finds that there has been candidate malpractice then appropriate penalties should be applied.
“Taking these steps to maintain the security and confidentiality of the secure assessment materials will protect the integrity of these assessments and help ensure fairness for all learners.
“Maintaining the confidentiality of these assessment materials is critical to the credibility of the alternative certification model.”
Scottish Labour education spokesperson Michael Marra, who was elected MSP for the North East Scotland region at the weekend, previously accused the SQA of failing pupils.
Speaking yesterday, he said: “This is an utter fiasco and shows just how disconnected the SQA is from the reality facing teachers, pupils and parents.
“The SQA should have seen this coming, but yet again they have failed spectacularly.”
Responding to the sharing of assessment details on TikTok, an SQA spokesman said: “The security and confidentiality of assessment material protects its integrity and helps ensure fairness to all learners.
“SQA has provided secure assessment materials to help teachers and lecturers gather evidence for provisional results, if they choose to use them.
“Teachers and lecturers have the flexibility to decide how and when to use these materials, which can be used in part or in their entirety.
“However, we are taking these incidents very seriously and are contacting schools and colleges to ensure that posts are removed as soon as possible.”