IT'S the small moments that overwhelm with their poignancy.

Among the many and varied reports of the fear and exasperation of teachers; the fury and anxiety of pupils; and the laundry list of political foul ups, it was a short video on Twitter that hit me square on, right in the heart and the head.

The slick little film was designed to show pupils, who would be returning to school after months away, exactly how their classroom had changed to adapt to coronavirus physical distancing measures.

Good music, engaging graphics, clearly communicated - the teacher had obviously put a good deal of thought and effort into getting this right. Then, just at the very end, two lines of tape on the floor.

Students shouldn't cross the first line and the teacher wouldn't cross the second line without a mask.

It was the detail that got me - the tape wasn't black and yellow hazard tape, it was rainbow coloured. An attempt to make an awful thing that little less awful.

Pause and think of that. Here is a teacher clearly passionate about their work. One, you imagine, who gets in about it. Now, though, this sudden invisible barrier between teacher and student.

It's easy to eulogise teachers, just as it is easy to eulogise NHS workers. Of course there are bad teachers, of course there is malpractice among medics.

But the vast majority do care deeply for their students and deeply for their profession and, since the start of the pandemic, they and their pupils haven't been able to catch a break.

While concerns go on about Christmas holidays and classroom safety, there's now alarm about exams. Cancellation was the correct decision, not least to remove the anxiety of uncertainty that has haunted pupils and teachers throughout this year. Certainties have been traumatically lacking since March and stability will be of benefit to young people and staff alike.

There will, though, be plenty of people involved in the education system wondering why a decision took this long.

At the end of April the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association called for the cancellation of the 2021 exams. In June, the EIS joined in, saying it would be "impossible" for next year's exams to be business as usual. The unions were joined by opposition politicians, most notably Ross Greer of the Scottish Green Party.

In August we had the distress and chaos of this year's exam results, the algorithm fiasco that preferred punishing pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds rather than trusting teacher judgement. Then a u-turn, then a failed vote of no confidence in the education secretary.

John Swinney then indicated that it could be mid-February before a decision was taken on Higher and Advanced Higher exams although, by this point, National 5s had already been cancelled.

Now exams are off - but a row is underway about how staff will possibly have enough time to prepare for an alternative system given the lack of in-service days left in the academic year.

The Scottish Government has offered a one-off payment to teachers in acknowledgement of the additional workload but, I imagine, for many it's not about the money. It's about the sheer lack of insight and acknowledgement of teachers' roles.

I've written this before, but it's exhausting, the wide and varied range of societal issues that are raised for public discussion that inevitably ends with, "That should be taught in schools".

If the number of additional topics suggested each year were, in fact, added to the curriculum then we could kiss goodbye to time for English and Maths.

There's an assumption that schools offer a magic fix and that expectation of wand waving has extended to the Covid-19 pandemic. You can give teachers a cash bung but what they need is more hours in the day. Good luck with that.

With rumbles of industrial action on the horizon now is the time for long term fixes. Throughout the pandemic one of the few salves has been the acknowledgement that life can be altered for the better. It cannot be the case that everything slides back to its unsatisfactory pre-covid state.

So here is education, and here is the exam system. The exams are cancelled for 2021 but there's nothing to say they must be reinstated for 2022.

The debate between the merits of standardised tests versus subjective teacher assessments isn't new, nor is it unique to the UK. It's a long running international rumble that continues as we cling to a status quo.

Long term studies in England and Wales looking at GCSE and A level results have shown that teacher ratings and exam grades tend to be very similar, making classroom assessments a reliable measure of a young person's achievement.

Exam results are also affected by anxiety and a lack of self-confidence. They don't take into account a pupil's background or home circumstances.

Years of work are siphoned down into a few high-stakes, stressful hours of testing.

Close and regular monitoring of pupil achievement is also useful for teaching, giving a sense of how well a young person is consolidating their learning and giving early warning if additional support is needed.

Removing the end of year exam gives scope for more creativity and flexibility with intermittent focused targets giving goals that keep pupils on track, rather than prelims then final exams.

Without exams there's no teaching to the test. Exams, also, are expensive. Is the high cost really worth it? Not financially, no, and not pedagogically.

Pupils who do well in exams tend to be those who come from stable backgrounds. The sorts of parents who pore over the annual league tables will be the sorts of parents who will kick against the abolition of exams. But a few hours of testing have no way of considering a child holistically and holistic, equitable treatment should be a focus as we move out of the pandemic.

There are some subjects - the STEM subjects, for example - where testing can be preferable, some students will prefer exams and so elective tests might be useful, so this isn't a suggestion exams are ditched altogether. But there's a strong argument for increasing teacher assessment and decreasing the number of exams. There's an even stronger argument that now, more than ever, is the time for reform, not retreat.