HERMITAGE Academy’s head teacher has assured the school's pupils that they will get the recognition their achievements deserve – even after this year’s exams were cancelled.

Robert Williamson has also said in a letter to youngsters at the Helensburgh school that a poor grade in their prelim exams does not necessarily mean a disappointing mark will be awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

The cancellation of the 2020 exam diet, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was announced by depute first minister John Swinney on Thursday, March 19.

The announcement led to questions about how the SQA would award grades this year, but in a lengthy letter to pupils, Mr Williamson gave them assurance.

He said: “Your achievements over all of your courses will be recognised this year. The SQA will ask your teachers to provide an estimate grade for each of your courses.

“The estimate must be based on evidence but will include all of your achievements in assessments throughout the year and not only your prelim results.

“The SQA will also look at a variety of data including your prior attainment information (grades you have previously been awarded) where appropriate. The deadline for schools to submit their estimate data is May 29.

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“In many cases a prelim does not provide ‘full’ evidence of your likely performance in the final exam – often because the prelim has only assessed a portion of the whole course, it has been superseded by other exam practice, and the mark for any coursework has not been included when creating this grade.

“We know that there is often an improvement in performance between the prelims and the final exam and we will also take this into account where appropriate.”

Mr Williamson also confirmed that grades will be sent out by the SQA on the originally planned date of Tuesday, August 4.

However, there will be no way of finding out grades before that date, and pupils are asked not to contact teachers regarding what marks they will receive.

They also will not be able to complete coursework online and submit it, with Mr Williamson explaining: “Every course is different with different course arrangements.

“The reason that work is not able to be completed online is that for some courses, it is mandatory that aspects of the course must be completed under exam conditions – timed, without notes, and in full view of the teacher.

“We therefore cannot have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to coursework which is one of the reasons why the SQA have decided that schools do not submit it this year.

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“We are currently awaiting more information from the SQA about estimation of grades and fuller details of the SQA’s approach to certification and will update you once we know more details. This guidance is expected to be given to us by April 20 at the latest.

“The SQA have advised that teachers may consider work that will not be uplifted and marked by the SQA as part of the ‘body of evidence’ they use to devise estimate grades.

“Therefore, your teachers will continue to work with you via Google Classroom in order to ensure that we have robust data to support our judgements for estimating grades.

“It is therefore important that you continue to engage with your teachers online, even in spite of the changes from SQA.”

Mr Williamson added: “It is also really important that you continue to engage with your teachers online as it will ensure that you develop the knowledge and skills to progress to the next level in that subject.

“This also applies to you if you are in S6 and preparing for college, university, an apprenticeships etc.

“If you do not continue to work online, yet are fit enough to do so, then your teacher will have less evidence to work with when completing estimate grades and you risk being ill-prepared for continuing with academic study next session.

“We recognise, of course, the importance of ensuring that young people who are unwell are not disadvantaged, and we will work with the SQA to ensure this is not the case.”

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