Scotland's new Education Secretary has said she will make a statement to Parliament next week on the 2021 National Qualifications appeals process.

Shirley-Anne Somerville announced the plan to MSPs on Wednesday afternoon. She was responding to an urgent question on the matter from Scottish Labour's Michael Marra.

Although National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams were cancelled, there has been an intense period of testing and assessments since schools reopened after Easter as teachers gather evidence to support their provisional grades.

Fiona Robertson, head of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), previously promised to set out this year's appeals process by early May at the latest but has yet to do so.

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Addressing Parliament on Wednesday, Ms Somerville said: "The focus of schools and colleges at present is on ensuring that all of our learners get the right and fair result first time.

"Nonetheless, I appreciate that every approach must allow for appeals and we must ensure that we get this right and deliver a fair and credible process for that too.

"We are working hard with the Scottish Qualifications Authority to do exactly that and, subject to parliamentary business, I would intend to make a statement to parliament on this next week."  

HeraldScotland: This year's National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams were cancelled due to the impact of Covid-19.This year's National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams were cancelled due to the impact of Covid-19.

Speaking after he asked his question, Mr Marra said: “It is unforgivable that teachers, families and most importantly young people do not yet know the conclusion of this process.

“The SQA has shown utter disregard for the pupils and staff involved and must be held to account. The lack of clarity around appeals is causing warranted concern and anxiety. 

“The SQA have treated learners with contempt throughout the pandemic, and missing this deadline is the latest example of that."

He added: “I welcome the Education Secretary’s recognition that these exams by any other name will be subject to an appeals process and her announcement that the detailed answers on how the system will operate will come next week. 

“But the reality is that pupils, parents and teachers needed clarity weeks ago and the SQA must answer for its failures.” 

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Scottish Conservative Oliver Mundell said: “The harsh reality is that pupils are sitting exams in all but name right now despite being told they were cancelled this year. It simply isn’t good enough that the SNP’s new Education Secretary is going to wait until next week to deliver an update on the appeals process.

“The SQA have missed key deadlines that were put in place and have continued to fail parents, carers and most importantly our young people. There must be accountability for their widespread failures.

“It was extremely disappointing that the SNP’s Education Secretary appears to be none the wiser as to why the SQA missed these all important deadlines to reassure pupils a robust appeals process is in place. That is the least they deserve after last years fiasco regarding exam results.”