HES urges fair treatment for external exam candidates

Home Education Scotland and Scottish Home Education Forums have sent a joint letter to Education Secretary John Swinney urging him to take action after home educated and independent entrants for SQA exams suffered unequal treatment compared to school and college candidates during the 2020 pandemic, losing out on being awarded exam grades and suffering financially.

The letter is set out below:

27th October 2020

Dear Mr Swinney                                                                                                                     

Ref: Call for review of SQA cancelling exams excluding the needs of home educated children and external candidates, including those with additional support needs.

We understand that this is a difficult time in creating guidance and practice during the Covid-19 pandemic and we would like to bring to your attention that there has been a disproportionate effect on the home educating community through cancellation of examinations or qualifications in 2021.  Much conversation has taken place through our various support groups across the country and all are in support of this request for consideration.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant that independent candidates, including home educated young people, were not only denied access to the 2020 exams they had been working towards, but were also excluded from the alternative arrangements drawn up by the Scottish Qualifications Authority for their schooled counterparts in the absence of predicted grade assessments by teachers or tutors. Many home educators incurred significant financial losses as well as missing out on qualifications and university places they had worked hard for. In other words, they were effectively ‘cancelled’ along with their exams.

In Ireland, a successful challenge to an unjust exclusion from alternative arrangements for assessment resulted in adjustments being made to address the disadvantage. Sadly, no such adjustments appear to have been contemplated to level the playing field for home educated students in Scotland and other independent candidates in the UK who have been caught in the Covid-19 fall-out.

We are therefore contacting you to request that you instruct the SQA to engage directly with the stakeholder signatories below and give us some assurance that an Equality Impact Assessment of any new arrangement identifies the needs of home educated and external candidates, many of whom have additional support needs and/or disabilities.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Ally MacDonald                                                 Alison Preuss
Convenor, Home Education Scotland         Scottish Home Education Forum
www.homeeducationscotland.org.uk       www.scothomeed.co.uk

With support of the following:

Marie Hartigan, Fife Home Education Community
Fran Derrick, Orkney Home Education
Finla Chalmers, Perth Home Education & Alternative Learning
Mairi McMillan, Home Education Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
Margaret Armour, North Lanarkshire Home Education Families & Scottish Home Education – Higher Education Group Pathways to University
Mark Nixon, Central Scotland Home Education Network
Vida Colvin, Dumfries and Galloway Home Education
Mairead Murray, Home Education Glasgow & Edinburgh
Patricia Watson, Ayrshire Home Educators
Melissa Rarity, ABC Education Group, Ayr
Kelly Hobbs. Scottish Borders Home Education
Maryanne Jacobs, Edinburgh Home Education
Mari Scott (Tuesday Group), Glasgow Home Education Groups
Sapna Agarwal (Wednesday Group) Glasgow Home Education Groups
Ailinn Gilroy, Fife Home Educators

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