NICOLA Sturgeon has been criticised for leaving pupils "in limbo" over whether or not traditional exams will be held next year.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government would consider the issue over the summer and set out its plans in August. 

Exams have been cancelled for the last two years in a row due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused Ms Sturgeon of failing to answer "the basic question" of whether or not she supports traditional exams. 

Speaking during First Minister's Questions, he said the SNP Government had “lost its way” on education and lacks vision.

Afterwards, he said: “It’s no longer clear if the SNP Government even supports traditional exams at all. 

"Nicola Sturgeon wouldn’t answer the basic question if she’s for or against them.  

“The SNP Government no longer seems to value traditions that have served us well, that got the First Minister and I from a great local school to the Scottish Parliament.

“Scottish Conservatives firmly believe traditional exams are the best and fairest way for young people to show what they know and what they can do.

“Our education system has always been distinct. It’s uniquely our own – a cornerstone of what makes us Scottish.

“If the SNP decide to remove the focus on fundamentals, stop valuing core knowledge and ditch exams, then they’re abandoning the very things that made Scotland’s schools great.”

Mr Ross cited comments from education expert Professor Lindsay Paterson that it is "unlikely that a system that relied wholly on coursework would ever command public confidence".  

Ms Sturgeon said experts at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will submit a report to ministers in August, which will "help to inform" decisions on the future of exams.

She said decisions will also be dependent on whether or not Scotland can meet Covid milestones. 

Speaking during FMQs, she said: "We have to take account of the wider Covid situation and take these decisions properly."

She said: "If I was to stand here right now, while we are still in the grip of Covid, while we have rising cases - although increasing vaccination that we hope will keep that under control - if I was to stand here and in a knee-jerk, ill-considered way, decide now what is to happen for exams next year, then I think people across the country would be right to criticise me for doing that.

"That would not be the responsible, considered thing to do."

Ms Sturgeon said "there is a debate about the right balance between traditional exams and continuous assessment in ensuring we have that robust system".  

She stressed there is a need to "get all of this right" as she said ministers have to carefully consider the place of "traditional exams" within the "future of qualifications".

She added: "No decisions have been taken around that."  

The First Minister said exams "are important", but the "most important principle" is for the country to "have a robust and respected system for awarding qualifications to young people".

She added: "We have asked the OECD to do further work, they will report to us in August, we will take account of all of that and this Parliament then will have the opportunity to debate this."

The exchanges came as youngsters across Scotland are preparing to find out what grades they have been awarded for qualifications based on teacher assessments.

While the Scottish Qualifications Authority is to be scrapped, Ms Sturgeon said she still has "confidence" in the work it is currently doing "around the certification of national qualifications".