Here’s a quick class test for you all. Answer the following question, and remember that you’ll get extra marks for showing your working.

Which of these two options is more likely to be correct?

Option A – Scotland’s teachers don’t know how to read SQA documentation or generally do their jobs and are about to put their pupils through weeks of exams that aren’t needed.

Option B – the first minister of Scotland, in the midst of an election campaign and less than a year on from the greatest educational scandal of the devolution era, is trying to manipulate the situation in schools for political gain.

Ok, it’s not exactly a challenge – any idiot can see that the answer is option B.

And yet today, with a straight face, Nicola Sturgeon insisted that there’s no need for pupils to sit exams.

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So ignore that exam timetable your child brought home from school. Forget about the money the government is paying teachers for all that marking this year. Don’t listen to the people whose job it is to teach and assess your kids.

Nicola knows best. Both votes SNP.

Is it technically true that exams are not necessary this year? Sure. But in the real world – as opposed to the one that our alleged leaders inhabit – the Scottish government’s failures, combined with the SQA’s ludicrous demands, have forced schools into a situation where exams are really the only workable option.

Schools don’t need to do exams, they just need to remember that the most reliable evidence will look and feel as much like a normal exam as possible, and will be generated at the end of the year. Nudge nudge, wink wink.


And remember that all of this is happening not just within an incredibly constrained timeframe, but also with all of the other pupils either being taught remotely or, in a couple of weeks, coming back to school full time.

That’s why schools have reached the conclusion that the only way for them to jump through all the necessary hoops and generate grades for their pupils is to run an exam diet. They might manage to space it out over a few weeks, splitting up papers into a couple of sittings rather than demanding it all be completed at once, but that’s mostly for timetabling reasons and doesn’t really change the situation. If anything, it might even make it worse for young people who will end up spending several weeks grinding their way through test after test.

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If something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then you’re an idiot to let a politician tell you it’s anything else, particularly when they’re the ones who will benefit if you do go along with it.

What young people are facing looks like an exam diet and feels like an exam diet for a very simple reason: because that’s exactly what it is, whether the first minister is willing to admit it or not.

I don’t believe that the first minister of Scotland is daft enough to believe that these exams aren’t really exams, although she clearly thinks that’s exactly how daft you are.

It looks very much as though Nicola Sturgeon is looking for a way to blame schools for a mess that her government created. So she’ll say over and over again that there’s no need for students to sit exams, with the obvious implication that if they do happen then that’s just because those damn teachers don’t know how to do their jobs.

She no longer wants to be judged on her record – she wants others to be judged on it.

And if the wellbeing of thousands and thousands of young people has to be sacrificed in pursuit of that goal? Well apparently that’s ok too.