Shetland Times Column - 11th December 2020


After cancelling the National 5 exam diet for 2021, it really was only a matter of time before the Higher and Advanced Higher exams were cancelled. While no-one doubts that students can be put into rooms in socially-distant exam conditions, it is simply not possible is for there to be a level-playing field for all.

The pandemic has meant that many young people have missed school to self-isolate for days, sometimes multiple times, as have some teachers. And it’s this inequity that means that not all learners would be able to have the same shot at exams as their classmates.

After cancelling the National 5 exam diet for 2021, it really was only a matter of time before the Higher and Advanced Higher exams were cancelled. While no-one doubts that students can be put into rooms in socially-distant exam conditions, it is simply not possible is for there to be a level-playing field for all.

The pandemic has meant that many young people have missed school to self-isolate for days, sometimes multiple times, as have some teachers. And it’s this inequity that means that not all learners would be able to have the same shot at exams as their classmates.

The Education Secretary came to Parliament on Tuesday to announce the exams cancellation. It was a month after the Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Secretary had cancelled all exams so teachers and learners there have had a head start on developing assessment processes.

At a recent meeting with local parents of senior phase students, they told me that the stress on their children’s year group was intolerable and took the view that it would be fairer all round if the exams were cancelled. These are the same learners who went through the debacle of the exams process in the summer so their anxiety is understandable. Ending uncertainty of nationwide exams was necessary and a credible alternative must now be established.

EU citizens and their families have to apply to the UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) by 30 June 2021 in order to continue living, working and studying in the UK after that date.

There are many EU citizens who have made their home in Shetland. Some have been here for decades, and I am glad that they chose to make Shetland their home. This community is an open and welcoming one and long may that continue.

But there are concerns that with everyone’s focus on the pandemic, some people may miss out on completing the EU residency scheme process. Almost 215,000 applications have been made to the EUSS but all EU citizens will have to apply for settled or pre-settled status if they want to remain here.

During a cross-party briefing for MPs and MSPs earlier this week, the main issue was how to ensure that all EU citizens secure their right to remain before next summer’s deadline.

With time running out, another awareness-raising campaign is planned. And after the disgraceful ‘Windrush’ scandal it doesn’t take much imagination to see why this is necessary.

Small Business Saturday is a national campaign held on the first Saturday of December, designed to get people to support local businesses in the run-up to Christmas. I chose a food and drink theme this year and went firstly to the Lerwick Brewery, and then Island Fish Shetland at the Marina Business Park.

As Taste of Shetland and others repeatedly say, we have high quality ingredients here. No need for food miles when we can buy home-grown produce, and supporting isles producers benefits the local economy too.


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