SCOTLAND'S qualifications authority has been ridiculed after suggesting pupils studying music in school could consider "learning a different instrument" if coronavirus means they cannot receive face-to-face lessons.

The SQA said it recognises the impact Covid-19 "has had, and will continue to have, on learning and teaching".

It made the suggestion in a consultation document about changes to National 4, National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher music performance.

The quango said: "Brass, woodwind and voice candidates, who are unable to be supported by face to face learning and teaching leading up to their assessment, might wish to consider the option of learning a different instrument. 

"This instrument could be closely related to an instrument that they play. 

"For example, a guitar candidate could consider the option of learning a bass guitar piece (or pieces). 

"A keyboard player could consider the option of learning a tuned percussion piece (or pieces). 

"Individual candidates and their teachers and lecturers should carefully consider the candidate’s strengths and abilities when deciding whether to pursue this option or not." 

Scottish Labour MSP Iain Gray said the suggestion was "just ridiculous". 

He said: "Pupils who have spent years mastering an instrument are being told to drop it and suddenly pick up another. 

"It makes absolutely no sense, and is only the latest blunder from the SQA."

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said: "I wish I could be surprised by this level of incompetence from the SQA but I just can't anymore."

He added: “To suggest that a young person who has spent up to nine years learning an instrument and honing their skill should start again with another totally unrelated instrument just a few months before their exam is both ridiculous and insulting.

"The SQA have proven yet again that they are unfit for the role they hold in supporting and certifying young people's learning.

“The root cause of this farce is the Scottish Government's insistence on dragging out its final decision on Higher and Advanced Higher exams.

"This is despite it being patently obvious already that exams cannot go ahead in anything like a fair manner, given how much teaching time some young people have missed compared to others.

“Cancelling exams and moving to a system based on assessment of the work a young person has been able to complete throughout the year, factoring in specific disruption like that faced by woodwind and voice musicians, is the only viable option."

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene said: “This is astonishing and extremely misguided from the SQA and will severely upset hardworking pupils.

“While we must continue to stop the spread of the virus, this guidance appears to have been ill-thought out and made up on the hoof.

“Students who have worked tremendously hard for these exams have been let down again by officials and deserve clarity on why the SQA believe this is the best course of action.

“Instead of punishing students, proper support must be put in place for those affected in order to ensure no pupil is disadvantaged as a result.”

A spokesman for the SQA said: “Teachers and lecturers will be best placed to decide which approach will benefit their candidates.

"There is no requirement for candidates to change instruments, however this could be considered if this was decided to be an appropriate approach for individual candidates.

“As detailed in the consultation, it will be acceptable for assessment purposes for brass, woodwind and voice candidates to record themselves performing at home.

“We have developed these proposed modifications for music performance with members of our examining teams, who are practising music teachers.

"The proposed modifications intend to offer more flexibility and optionality for centres and candidates to prepare for assessment due to the current restrictions.

"These modifications also attempt to ensure performance continues to be assessed and remains a component of the music courses.

"For Higher Music, there will be more time for candidates to prepare for assessment which will need to take place by no earlier than the end of April."