This is my last column before the end of the school year and the start of the summer parliamentary recess. I want to say a huge thank-you to all the pupils, teachers, other school staff, parents and carers who have worked so hard during this unprecedentedly challenging year.
As a parent and, until last month, teacher, I have had a frontline perspective on the hurdles young people have faced since the start of the pandemic and especially during the second lockdown. They have been asked to make many sacrifices to help keep their families and communities safe.
But, too often, they have been failed by decision-makers. Ministers failed to act ahead of last summer’s SQA exams scandal, when its model ended up disproportionately marking down pupils from poorer areas. While that failure was shocking and could have been avoided, the government did have the excuse of being in completely unknown territory at that time.
However, it will be unforgiveable if, despite the opportunity to learn from last year’s debacle and warnings from experts and young people themselves, this year’s qualifications system, including the new appeals process, again fails our young people. After already experiencing great hardship over the last 15 months, pupils should not have to face this added uncertainty about the the way the system operates. A no-detriment appeals policy would help address their concerns.
I am also encouraging young people and families to take advantage of the various Get into Summer activities available during the holiday period.
26 June is Armed Forces Day, the annual day for the public to thank our serving Armed Forces personnel, as well as Veterans, for their contribution at home and abroad. During the pandemic this has included assisting with the procurement and delivery of PPE, helping to establish and staff temporary Covid hospitals and supporting the expansion of testing.
I thank all our Armed Forces personnel for their ongoing dedication and commitment.