The Scottish Qualifications Authority has apologised for scheduling examinations on Shavuot after SCoJeC took up the cases of three pupils whose exams were affected with Michael Russell, the Cabinet Secretary for Education.
We had previously received assurances from the SQA that they would seek to avoid subjects taught in the five schools attended by the vast majority of Jewish teenagers clashing with Shavuot, and that they would check with SCoJeC sufficiently far in advance to enable changes to be made if possible. However this did not happen before this year's examinations, and a number of candidates in Biology were disadvantaged as a result.
Unfortunately by the time the SQA responded to the Cabinet Secretary's intervention, it was too late to change this year's timetable, but they did agree to allow any of a number of absentee processes to be used, including arranging for candidates to be supervised until they can sit the examination after the festival. There was a particular issue with one candidate whose grades had improved significantly during the year, and the SQA helpfully added that "schools should be aware that the alternative evidence generated by them under the conditions specified by SQA can be generated at any point before the national exam. This could include a second prelim taken later in the year but before the final exam. That may provide evidence of a candidate's improvement since the original prelim sat earlier in the year."
"I'm delighted that the SQA has now apologised," said one parent. "All I received from them was a fob-off. Thanks to SCoJeC's efforts, it's now clear that the SQA blundered over dates this year, which speaks volumes for their basic homework. Hopefully procedures will now be put in place for future years to prevent this recurring."
We have reminded the SQA of their undertakings to attempt to avoid scheduling popular subjects and those taught in the key schools on Shavuot, and are now in discussion with them about the 2014 examination timetable. We would be pleased to hear from anyone with specific concerns about next year in order to take these up with the SQA.