AH well, by closing schools for four months and cancelling the exams, we’ve narrowed the attainment gap and pass rates have gone through the roof. Who would have thought it? To be fair, the 2020 exam debacle was always going to be a lose/lose situation for the Education Secretary. John Swinney is an able and honourable man and he would have been uncomfortable to think that even a few youngsters would be disadvantaged through no fault of their own. However, his quick and short-term fix may give rise to equally difficult questions.

I don’t want to rain on the parade of the youngsters whose grades have been inflated, but colleges, universities and employers are always going to be sceptical about awards made in 2020. I feel particularly sorry for this year’s candidates who would have done well no matter which year they sat their exams, but whose 2020 award will be forever tainted. Presumably next year’s results will be back in line with previous years. If so, Higher pass rates in 2021 will be around 15% lower than in 2020, further undermining the credibility and value of this year’s awards. Also, what about candidates in earlier years whose award was lower than their teachers’ estimates? I would like my physics award from 1964 to be looked at again. If we’re buying into the principle of teachers’ infallibility in estimating grades, there must be thousands out there with a legitimate cause for complaint. Oh, teachers are infallible for this year only, surely placing an even larger question mark over the 2020 results. Additionally, has a precedent been created?

If, and it’s a big if, this year’s results mean anything at all, why have exams at all? The about-turn has been justified on the grounds that some pupils in lower performing schools have been disproportionately disadvantaged. That ignores the fact that these pupils, in these schools, are disadvantaged by the exam system every year. I worked in a school in a disadvantaged area where the staff went knocking on doors to get pupils to even turn up for their exams.

Perhaps this year's experience offers an opportunity to reconsider how we assess youngsters’ learning without sacrificing the system’s credibility.

Predictably, the Education Secretary’s political opponents have been quick to play to the gallery, but slower to say what they would have done. A Tory MSP even reinvented himself as a spokesman for “our toughest communities”. It will be interesting to hear his verdict on the very similar system of standardisation to be used in England.

Politically, Mr Swinney may have taken the only option, but time will tell if it was the correct decision for Scottish education and its exam system.

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