All exams in Scotland have been cancelled because of the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on pupils, the country's Education Secretary John Swinney has announced.
Mr Swinney told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday that Higher and Advanced Higher exams are being cancelled for the second year in a row after an earlier decision to scrap tests at National 5.
He explained “the level of disruption to learners has not been equal”, with pupils from poorer backgrounds more likely to miss school to self-isolate.
Mr Swinney said: “I will not stake the future of our Higher pupils – whether they get a place at college, university, training or work – on a lottery of whether their school was hit by Covid.
“Exams cannot account for differential loss of learning and could lead to unfair results for our poorest pupils.
“This could lead to pupils’ futures being blighted through no fault of their own. That is simply not fair.”
The question is less whether we can hold the exams safely in the spring and more whether we can do so fairly
He added: “While we hope that public health will improve in the coming months, we cannot guarantee that there will be no further disruption to pupils’ learning.
“In light of this, the question is less whether we can hold the exams safely in the spring and more whether we can do so fairly.
“However, there is no getting around the fact that a significant percentage of our poorest pupils have lost significantly more teaching time than other pupils.
“Changing the exams for all does not – and cannot – address that. Instead, we need a model that is more flexible to the specific circumstances of the individual pupil.”
Mr Swinney previously announced the National 5 exam diet, which was due to take place in the spring of 2021, was being cancelled as a result of Covid-19, with grades to be decided by “teacher judgment supported by assessment”.
No algorithm will be used to adjust results after the backlash at this year’s moderation process that disproportionately downgraded pupils from poorer backgrounds, Mr Swinney said.
He added: “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.”
The decision follows a similar move by the Welsh Government to cancel its exam diet for 2021 in November. The UK Government has confirmed exams in England will go ahead in May.
Scottish Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene criticised the government’s “months of dither and delay” before making the announcement, which he described as an “admission of complete failure” .
Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray said: “These decisions make sense, but yet again, they are made very, very late."
Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said the announcement is “overdue but welcome”, adding: “It provides the clarity that teachers, parents and, most importantly, pupils had demanded."
EIS teaching union general secretary Larry Flanagan, said: “The EIS has every confidence in the ability of teachers to make professional judgments based on pupil evidence and in the circumstances believes that cancelling the exam diet in favour of an alternative model is the correct decision, one which could have been made earlier."