Senior Tayside pupils have been left ‘blindsided’ after learning they must sit exam-style final assessments after the Easter holidays – despite less than five months of classroom learning.
A petition launched by Dundee schoolgirl Deni Mcgurty has struck a chord with almost 6,000 teenagers after it called for the Scottish Qualifications Authority to rethink the alternative certification model, which was introduced to replace exams.
The 16-year-old says she was disappointed to learn she would have to sit final assessments for all four of her Higher subjects.
Deni, an S5 pupil at Baldragon Academy, says the assessments are exams in all but name.
“This is our future in their hands and whatever we get in these final assessments can impact on us going to university or college.”
The petition has soared in popularity in the last week as it resonates with young Scots whose grades will be determined by the process. It currently has more than 5,500 signatures.
She said: “Our voices definitely need to be heard. I’m glad to see the petition growing because the bigger the number the more chance we have of making a change.
“We’re told this final assessment is going to be primarily our grade, with coursework and past assessments backing up the evidence.
“But obviously those who have been severely impacted by Covid or who are from deprived areas don’t have a lot of evidence so this final assessment will have a severe impact on final grades.”
Pupils across Scotland have reached out to Deni to share concerns that they have not completed coursework or have had little notice to prepare for these assessments.
She added: “This is our future in their hands and whatever we get in these final assessments can impact on us going to university or college.”
Similar concerns have been raised in Perth as one parent, whose son attends St John’s RC Academy, says pupils have been “blindsided” by an ‘assessment timetable’ given to them on the day they came off for the Easter break.
This has come as a bolt from the blue.”
The timetable refers to the assessments, due to take place after pupils return from the break, as “exams”.
The parent said: “They always thought there was going to be something and expected some sort of assessment but nothing like full exam conditions. This has come as a bolt from the blue.
“It’s no different to what they would normally get. We have no idea what percentage of the total course mark these exams will be for.
“It seems that the SQA has come up with a policy on the hoof and punted it back to the school to implement the best they can – it’s crazy.”
Pupils across Scotland have been faced with this predicament, according to Rachael Hatfield, founder of SQA: Where’s Our Say group.
She said: “We have heard from young people from Shetland to the Borders that are saying they’re going back to school after Easter to sit exam condition assessments.”
SQA ‘exam’ guidance
Guidance for teachers published by the SQA appears to advocate internal school tests as the best way of providing evidence of performances for certain subjects.
For chemistry and physics, the guidance states that key pieces of evidence are a “question paper, covering as much as possible”, as well as an end-of-course test or top up question paper”.
These are to be taken in “closed-book conditions” and “under a high degree of supervision and control.”
For Higher history, key evidence needs to come from question papers which should replicate “as far as possible, SQA past papers”.
An SQA spokesman, however, insisted that any way of assessing pupil’s performance was at the discretion of individual schools.
There is no requirement or guidance to replicate a full formal exam or prelim, he said.
He said: “We have provided subject specific guidance for gathering evidence, which outlines a range of approaches which can be taken this year. Teachers and lecturers can tailor the teaching, learning and assessment to meet their learners’ needs and circumstances.
“We have created a flexible framework which includes approaches to assessment and standards with which teachers and lecturers will already be familiar. The National Qualifications Group has been clear that there is no requirement to replicate a full exam diet this year.”
Teachers and lecturers can tailor the teaching, learning and assessment to meet their learners’ needs and circumstances.”
A Dundee City Council spokesman said Baldragon Academy has not indicated to pupils that grades would only be based around one assessment. The school were following “strict SQA guidance”.
Perth and Kinross Council did not respond to request for comment.