SQA exams: Education Secretary sets out pupil support plan

Ministers have set out how pupils will be targeted for study support ahead of this year’s exams.

However, they do not expect a new, multi-million-pound funding package to provide a “universal offer” of assistance in “all subjects available in all schools or colleges”.

It comes as young people prepare to sit national tests in what will be the first diet since 2019. Conventional exams were cancelled in 2020 and last year due to Covid-19.

READ MORE: Pupils to be told what’s in exams and graded ‘generously’

In a letter to MSPs, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said £4 million in funding would allow schools, colleges and councils to offer “targeted sessions for learners over Easter”. Exams are due to take place between April and June.

Her letter states that support will be aimed at:

  • senior phase learners from the most deprived backgrounds;
  • senior phase learners undertaking exams with additional support needs;
  • senior phase learners undertaking exams whose attendance and/or attainment has been most acutely affected by Covid-19.

HeraldScotland: Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said a £4 million funding package would boost support for pupils as they prepare for exams.Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said a £4 million funding package would boost support for pupils as they prepare for exams.

The means by which the help is provided will be at the discretion of the school, local authority or college.

Ms Somerville’s letter adds: “While it is not envisioned that this funding would result in a universal offer of support in all subjects available in all schools or colleges, this funding is available to allow them (or subjects within schools/colleges) who have previously chosen not to offer Easter Study sessions due to limited capacity/resources to introduce such support.”

The letter was published as examiners at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said they were prepared to be “generous” when grading candidates. The measure is part of a larger support plan drawn up amid continued concern over the Omicron variant, which has caused significant rates of pupil and staff absence.

Learners can also expect advance notice of content that will, or will not, be assessed in exams. SQA bosses said the guidance would help focus revision efforts ahead of the 2022 diet.

READ MORE: SQA poised to boost pupil support

They added that it remained their “clear intention” for exams to take place. The tests will only be cancelled if public health restrictions prohibit physical gatherings.

Both the exceptional circumstances and appeals services – which, respectively, operate when candidates are unable to attend a particular exam or want to challenge a result – will see SQA-appointed teachers and lecturers review assessment evidence gathered throughout the year.

In the case of appeals, the SQA will also conduct a clerical check on exam scripts. Final awards will be based on the higher grade generated by the two types of evidence. The appeals service will remain free and direct. 

Union leaders warned previously that study and revision support would be vital to averting an increase in the poverty-related attainment gap.

Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said: “Come April, there will need to be measures and resources in place to ensure that all students have equitable access to revision support and not only those whose parents can afford additional tuition, or the SQA’s guidance could actually widen the equity gap.”

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