Parent leaders have told the national exams body that Scotland’s young people deserve a “humane, responsive” assessment system. 

The remarks come after the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) stressed it was prepared to be “generous” when grading candidates this year.

Pupils can also expect advance notice of content that will, or will not, be assessed in exams. SQA bosses said the guidance would help focus revision efforts ahead of the 2022 diet.

The measures are part of a larger support package aimed at pandemic-hit learners. They have been announced as schools battle the impact of Covid-19, with the Omicron variant continuing to cause significant rates of pupil and staff absence.

SQA leaders said it remained their “clear intention” that exams will take place between April and June. They will only be cancelled if public health restrictions prohibit physical gatherings.

READ MORE: Pupils to be told what's in exams and graded 'generously'

Both the exceptional circumstances and appeals services – which, respectively, operate when candidates are unable to attend a particular exam or want to challenge a result - will see SQA-appointed teachers and lecturers review assessment evidence gathered throughout the year.

In the case of appeals, the SQA will also conduct a clerical check on exam scripts. Final awards will be based on the higher grade generated by the two types of evidence. The appeals service will remain free and direct. 

Bosses at parents' organisation Connect have welcomed the plans.

Eileen Prior, executive director, said: “After two really difficult years for learners, where the qualifications system seemed punitive and at times inhumane, the SQA and its chief executive are finally listening as young people are put at the front and centre.

“We very much hope the SQA will do as it says and ‘do all we can to deliver for Scotland’s learners this year.” 

HeraldScotland: Alternative assessment processes rolled out in 2020 and 2021 caused huge public anger.Alternative assessment processes rolled out in 2020 and 2021 caused huge public anger.

But Ms Prior also said young people were owed a “huge apology” following controversy over alternative certification arrangements in 2020 and 2021. Conventional exams were cancelled in both years due to the impact of Covid, with replacement assessment processes causing widespread anger.

An algorithm-based moderation system that was rolled out in 2020 led to thousands of pupils being downgraded. Amid public fury, ministers eventually caved in and allowed teacher-judged results to stand.

The following year saw candidates subjected to a brutal treadmill of tests as schools scrambled to gather evidence of attainment.

READ MORE: School tests 'leave pupils confused and anxious'

Ms Prior said: “From now on, we must see a humane, responsive system that is timely and focused on young people and their next steps.

“Parents in our education reform surveys, which looked ahead to future changes to the qualification arrangements, said that the education system must be more nuanced and tailored as it supports young people to achieve and have their achievements recognised in ways that work for them and their learning.

“In summary, young people must be at the heart of all aspects of the Scottish education system.”

Senior figures at the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) indicated they were broadly supportive of the SQA's plans.

Cameron Garrett, convener of the SYP’s Education and Lifelong Learning Committee, said the measures would “give young people additional support around their exams and assessments to help ease the stress and confusion caused by the recent increased disruption”.

He added: “The focus of the system must now be on ensuring those young people who face significant disruption, through no fault of their own, get the results they deserve – even if, for reasons outwith their control, they have not been able to complete all of their coursework.

“That means creating a fair and robust appeals system, that respects young people’s rights, and effectively communicating all the key information with young people so they have the certainty they need to prepare for their assessments.”

HeraldScotland: SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson said the pandemic was continuing to cause disruption to education.SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson said the pandemic was continuing to cause disruption to education.

Commenting after her agency's latest plans were unveiled, SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson said: “I fully understand that there remains significant disruption to learning and teaching caused by the pandemic.

“Teachers and lecturers across the country are working exceptionally hard to ensure learners receive all the support they need. I am also aware that learners may be feeling apprehensive or anxious about sitting formal exams for the first time this year.

“The substantial package of additional support SQA is announcing is the fairest and best way we can help support all learners to demonstrate their level of knowledge, understanding and skills for each course, while also maintaining the integrity, credibility and standard of the qualifications. With the support of the education system, we will continue to do all we can to deliver for Scotland’s learners this year.”

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: "It remains my firm intention that exams will take place as planned - they will only be cancelled if public health advice says it isn’t safe.

“While the number of full and partial school closures has been small, it is clear that many secondary schools have experienced extreme disruption as a result of the Omicron variant - particularly in the first half of January - in relation to both student and teacher absences. 

“This package of measures is designed to ensure our learners are fully supported in their learning and preparations for the exams this year.”