Teachers and parents have warned of safety concerns as well as mounting confusion over exams this year, after it was announced all pupils across Scotland will be back in the classroom full-time following the Easter holidays.

The EIS, Scotland's largest teaching union, said the removal of physical distancing between pupils, particularly older pupils, represents a "heightened risk" that more pupils will be infected.

It added the larger numbers in classrooms also creates more risk of airborne transmission, "which is why face coverings remain important, including the provision of medical grade face masks for staff."

And whilst some Councils have made progress in relation to monitoring and improving ventilation, others have "dragged their heels", say the union.

Commenting, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The full return of pupils needs to be treated with great caution.

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"It will undoubtedly lead to an increase in school Covid outbreaks which will require to be dealt with quickly, particularly for senior pupils who will be in the final stages of their qualification work.

"If we had made more progress on the EIS demands of ventilation, vaccination, and facemasks, we would be in a stronger position. Improving such mitigations is still possible."

Mr Flanagan added: "Notwithstanding their concerns, however, teachers will be keen to engage positively with pupils to support their well-being and their progress in learning.

"There will be a particular challenge for senior pupils as lockdown has squeezed the time available for the alternative certification model."

Schools have been warned to "tread carefully" during the alternative assessment process as fears grow that many pupils will face intensive, exam-style tests after Easter.

Parent representatives said families had been led to believe final results would be based on "efforts during the course of the year".

But there are concerns a significant number of young people will be assessed in high stress conditions with reduced preparation time.

One teacher has branded the approach "cruel", although senior staff representatives insisted it had been designed so schools could make arrangements according to their circumstances.

It comes after it was announced grades for the coming year will be based on teacher judgement supported by evidence, with National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams cancelled due to the impact of Covid-19.

Asked about the issue yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon said there would not be a requirement ro replicate a full exam or prelim.

She said: "The awarding of qualification for this year will be based on teacher judgement of evidence of the attainment of each learner.

"It won't be based on past results, and it won't be based on an algorithm, which caused all of the problems last year."


READ MORE: Schools warned as fears grow over plans for post-Easter 'exams'

A spokeswoman for parents’ organisation Connect said: “We are very concerned about suggestions that our young people are going to face lots of tests, prelims and exam-type arrangements.

“We were all led to believe that assessments under the alternative certification process would be based on evidence that is gathered work. It was not clear at any point that this would be an exam-like assessment operation. ​

“Many parents and young people have been led to believe that efforts during the course of the year would be what was taken into account.

“The fact that there are different systems of assessment everywhere is concerning too… Schools need to tread so carefully and cautiously with this.”

Meanwhile, Jim Thewliss, General Secretary at School Leaders Scotland said the evidence on which to base grades must be "robust" and "consistent with the standards that the SQA has set out."

He said: “In gathering evidence, the guidance to teachers has been to do this in the way which best suits the circumstances which the school and the young people find themselves in.

“One school might decide that the best way to do this is over a period of time and give pupils chunks of assessment over that extended period. Another school might say, ‘we are confident in the way young people have been learning during lockdown and we are confident that the best way of gathering the evidence that we need to decide on grades is through an exam-type situation’.

“There is a variety of approaches across the country. It may be that there are schools which had evidence banked before the second lockdown period at the turn of the year and those schools might decide to gather the remainder of the evidence throughout April and May.

"It’s all in the interests of gathering the best evidence in the most effective way – consistent with the standards.”