By Stella Robertson
Education has been an issue the Scottish Government had to tackle amidst the Covid19 pandemic. In 2020 they made the decision to cancel all exams and give students their grades based on their predicted grades. This decision has been widely criticized, as students felt that they could have done better than what they were predicted. Students with conditional offers were faced with the anxiety of not even having had the opportunity to show their true potential in their final exams.
Former Mearns Castle high school student, 19 year old Olivia Robertson, says:
“In 5th year, I failed all of my preliminary exams, but within a few months I was able to turn it around and achieve all As in my final exams. It feels unfair for those who thought they would have a chance to bump up their grades from a C to an A with just a bit more effort in the final months.”
Olivia graduated in 2019 and had already been given an unconditional offer at her university of choice before the Covid19 pandemic began. She continues:
“Nobody even took the prelims seriously when I was in school. It seemed pointless to most people in my year at the time. You can’t use prelim results to appeal your final exam mark either, so at the time it felt pointless to stress out over them, I think students are regretting thinking that now.”
Vivienne Mair, a maths teacher at Mearns Castle said:
“I would love to be able to change the way that exams have been awarded. I understand that it must have been extremely difficult for the Scottish Government to come up with a system to suit everyone, I can’t help but feel that there could have been a far fairer way of doing it, particularly after the decision was made to revert back to initial judgements from teachers. In many cases, this has put pupils at a disadvantage.”
“Although it may seem like a relief that exams are cancelled, I do have concerns over the potential, negative, long term impact on this cohort of pupils and the fact that the next exam they sit will be a university exam. Students graduating in 2021 will have never sat an important exam in their lives, and will have never experienced a full ‘exam diet’.”
An exam diet is what Vivienne describes as the months and weeks leading up to an exam, where a student would create and stick to a study timetable that would achieve the best result for them.
There have also been concerns of whether students should even be attending school, with young people being the main cause of spread in the pandemic.
Olivia Robertson, who now attends The University of Edinburgh, says:
“I just don’t really understand the logic behind why pupils can attend school and not have to sit exams, but I’ve never even stepped foot in my university and have countless online exams and tests to do. I am not able to comprehend why there isn’t just one rule for all learning institutions that we all follow.”
Social distancing is also a concern in schools.
“It is obviously difficult to social distance in schools, especially when no masks are to be worn in class when students are sitting shoulder to shoulder with one another. The students seemed to find it difficult to follow the government guidelines that they weren’t allowed to see each other outside of school, but were basically breathing down each other’s necks while they were in school.”
“In the school I work at, the students are very good at following the guidelines that are in place. That would be wearing a mask in the corridors and following a counterflow system while walking around the school. It’s just whether the government guidelines actually make sense that’s the issue. Although we are to wear masks in the corridors, we aren’t to wear them in classes, where the virus has the likelihood to spread much more.”
Other schools have not been as lucky as Mearns Castle, with a covid outbreak causing Falkirk High School to close for a week. High schools who have had high covid rates, have suffered more absences with pupils catching the virus and others needing to isolate. This may have an effect on the results of pupils who are at these high schools. Olivia said:
“I have friends who have been made to isolate upwards of 3 times this past year. That is 6 weeks of learning. I know if I was to miss that amount of school I’d absolutely not have achieved the As that got me into university.”
This could mean that students in Glasgow, where covid has been at its worst in Scotland, have been put at a major disadvantage to those who live in places where covid cases have not been as high.
The Scottish Government made decisions for Scotland’s education in very uncertain times, and they could not have predicted how long the coronavirus pandemic would go on for, or how serious it would be. The government could have been more fair in their decisions, but they were also under time constraints and had many other issues to look into that were caused by the pandemic.