NEXT year’s exams should be scrapped in order to give teachers time to prepare for awarding qualifications to young people, the Scottish Greens have suggested.

The Scottish Government was forced into a U-turn over the summer after thousands of grades were downgraded following moderation by the SQA – with those from schools in more deprived areas more heavily impacted.

Education Secretary John Swinney apologised to the pupils affected and he ensured any students downgraded have had their original estimated grades re-instated.

As a result of the backtracking from the Scottish Government, the National 5 pass rate was 88.9 per cent, the Higher pass rate was 89.2 per cent and the Advanced Higher pass rate was 93.1 per cent – up from 78.2 per cent, 74.8 per cent and 79.4 per cent respectively in 2019.

Compared with the moderated results, these increased by 7.8, 10.3 and 5.5 percentage points respectively On Thursday, Mr Swinney told a Q&A session with the National Parent Forum of Scotland that he intended to hold next year’s exams in full despite uncertainty about the virus.

He said: “Our objective is to run a full 2021 exam diet.

“SQA have consulted on what steps they could take to reduce the burden of assessments before the exam diet – what elements could be removed.

“We’ve also looked at the timetable of exams. Do they need to start in late April? Could they start at the end of May, giving them an extra month for learning and teaching.

“We’ve looked at those and the SQA is currently considering the response.”

Mr Swinney added that his main priority was fairness, saying: “I can’t foresee how much disruption there will be between now and next spring, either on individual, class or school-level.

“I am determined to ensure every student has fairness and a fair crack at the whip next year, no matter their experience.”

Now the Scottish Greens have called for the Scottish Government to put an end to the uncertainty around next year’s exams and call them off now.

An independent review of the SQA fiasco, to be led by Professor Mark Priestley, was due to report back within five weeks of last month’s U-turn, but Mr Sweeney confirmed that his findings will now not be reported until the end of the month.

Teaching unions the EIS and SSTA have previously called for the 2021 exams to be cancelled and replaced with assessment through the year to avoid the risk of national or localised school closures affecting young people's final results.

Scottish Greens education spokesperson, Ross Greer, said: “After last month's fiasco we absolutely cannot have a situation where exams are cancelled at short notice again, without other adequate arrangements having been put in place.

“There is simply no way to guarantee that schools won't be closed or exams cancelled, either across the country or in specific areas. Pressing ahead on the basis of end-of-year exams is an unacceptable risk.

"Waiting a few weeks for the results of the Priestley review and the SQA consultation will ensure that whatever decision is taken, it is informed by the views and experiences of teachers and pupils.

“A lack of similar consultation was a major failure of the SQA this year and it's exactly why the Greens secured the review. Whatever is decided though, it simply cannot be a 'normal' exam diet. That ship has already sailed."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterated that the Scottish Government intends to press ahead with next year’s school exams.

She said: “The current position is that we want an exam diet to go ahead as normal next year.

"I would simply make the obvious point again that we are in an uncertain position. The SQA have had a consultation already about what is entailed in terms of curriculum to support an exam diet next year. They are currently looking at the issues raised there so there is some further thinking to do done around that.”

She added: “It’s for Professor Priestly himself to decide the time it will take him to publish his findings and recommendations. As the Deputy First Minister said, we will receive that by the end of the month and then will be able to assess.

“Part of what we have asked him to do is look at all of the learning so we can make sure appropriate lessons are being learned.”

The EIS union has previously warned that it is too optimistic to assume that next year's exams will be able to go ahead in full.

EIS education convener, Susan Quinn, said: "Working towards a normal diet of exams seems hopelessly optimistic on the part of both the Scottish Government and the SQA, given even the current levels of disruption being faced in schools, let alone the threat of a second wave of the virus.

“In both the short and the longer term, we need to have less reliance on high stakes examinations to accredit student performance.”