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National 5s cancelled for 2021. GCSEs next?

The Scottish Parliament has cancelled National 5 exams – broadly the GCSE equivalent – for 2021. Instead grades will be awarded on the basis of assessments throughout the year informing teacher assessed grades.

It’s entirely possible that the rest of the UK could follow suit. That is something that experts are suggesting should happen. However, the Scottish Conservatives were against the plan. So it’s reasonable to question whether the Boris Johnson and the UK Conservatives would take the same view that exams “could and should” go ahead.

The alternative grading system in Scotland will be moderated. However it won’t be based on a statistical model or on past performance of the school. It is hard to see how grades will be aligned without some sort of model. Presumably no one in any government will be talking about algorithms for a while yet. Consistency of grading can only be done, surely, if it is peer ranked and there’s no indication how that might be achieved beyond sampling the assessment marking by teachers.

Yet more uncertainty for GCSE students. It’s going to make it tough for many to find the motivation to study. But it’s important – perhaps now more than ever – that they do. Every moment could count to their grades if exams don’t take place.


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