No algorithms for Scottish pupils’ grades in 2021

Exams for 16-to-18-year-olds have been cancelled across the country but UK government remains insistent they will continue in England

Algorithms will not be used next year to calculate exam grades for Scottish school leavers, the country’s education secretary has announced.

John Swinney this week announced, as a result of the loss of “significant learning time”, advanced and higher exams – broadly equivalent to A-levels – will be cancelled. National 5 exams, the equivalent of GCSEs in the rest of the UK, had already been scrapped.

But, after this year’s fiasco with the use of an algorithm to award grades – which were later ditched in favour of teachers’ projected marks – the Scottish Government education secretary said that the predictive technology will not be used in 2021.

Instead grades will be awarded using a model that takes account of individual pupils’ circumstances – particularly given that a significant percentage of the poorest pupils had lost more teaching time than their peers, Swinney said.

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“We hope that public health will improve in the coming months, we cannot guarantee that there will be no further disruption to pupils’ learning,” he added. “In light of this, the question is less whether we can hold the exams safely in the spring and more whether we can do so fairly.”

Schools and colleges are working with the Scottish Qualifications Authority to “understand the standards required for qualifications” and they will then apply that to “specified pieces of evidence such as coursework” with provisional results for individual pupils to be submitted to the SQA by 28 May.

Wales has already cancelled A-level and GCSE exams for 2021, but UK government education secretary Gavin Williamson has insisted that they will go ahead across England. Northern Ireland has not issued a definitive plan, but the intention is currently that they will take place.


Sam Trendall

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