Scottish Liberal Democrats have today called for the 2021 exams to be cancelled because pupils around the country "don't have a level playing field" and are demanding that the Education Secretary make the announcement immediately so an effective alternative can be put in place before schools break up for Christmas.
The party has said this is essential to avoid a repeat of John Swinney's 2020 exams algorithm which crushed pupils' ambitions and penalised those from poorer backgrounds the most.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie commented:
"After extensive consultation and discussion we have come to the reluctant conclusion that the Higher and Advanced Higher exams must be cancelled.
“The exams could be conducted safely because spacing pupils out in an exam hall is completely normal. But the different experiences of pupils this term already means they can't walk into those exam halls with the same shot at success. That is wrong and it's why we now need an early and effective alternative.
"Pupils don't have a level playing field. On any given day there are around 30,000 pupils and 1,500 teachers absent for covid-related reasons. Some have had to self-isolate for a fortnight multiple times, while others haven't missed a minute of school. Every pupil and class is experiencing a different level of disruption.
"Pupils are being asked to shield and learn from home in Level 4 areas, while elsewhere in the country they are still attending as normal. The situation in Glasgow is very different to the Highlands, and that's a barrier to holding fair national exams."
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP commented:
"John Swinney and the SQA can't leave this to the last minute again or pile the work on teachers. The Liberal Democrat education minister in Wales announced weeks ago that exams were cancelled and set out one option Scottish ministers could follow.
"Teachers and parents are concluding it wouldn't be fair to go ahead with nationwide exams as normal. The Scottish Government needs to end the uncertainty, immediately announce that the exams won't go ahead and establish the credible alternative before Christmas."