IT is still "very much the intention” for a full exam diet to go ahead for Scotland's school pupils, but a decision will be made by the end of March "at the very latest", the Education Secretary has stressed.

Last year, exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and pupil grades for national qualifications were based on work carried out throughout the academic year.

While Scotland, the UK and countries around the world face a surge in Covid cases driven by the Omicron variant of the virus, some restrictions have continued into 2022.

Speaking with the BBC on Sunday, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville (below) insisted that it is "very much the intention" of the Scottish Government to press on with exams this year but noted that contingency plans are ready if necessary due to public health reasons.

The National: Scottish Education Secretary Shirley-Anne SomervilleScottish Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville

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In regards to when a decision on exams potentially being cancelled would come, Somerville said: "The very latest we think it can be made is the end of March, but it doesn’t have to wait until then.

“There’s obviously very close assessment of different measures, whether it’s absence rates, disruption to learning, how things are going in general around schools, so a basket of measures constantly being looked at by the SQA.

“We will keep this under very, very close review, because I understand that the build-up to exams is a stressful time for young people in any year, but during a Covid year of course even more so.”

Modifications to the exam diet have been put in place to take account of the fact that learning is still being disrupted by the pandemic

The Education Secretary detailed two contingency plans for potential disruption to exams including one for if the Government chooses to progress with the diet and then for "public health reasons, the exam diet can’t take place”.

READ MORE: Younger children facing long-term harms of pandemic as milestones missed

Somerville said: “Then, young people would have professional judgement of teachers being used, based on evidence.

“We also have another mitigation – a contingency that’s ready to be used, if necessary, if we see even further disruption to learning over the next couple of terms – but that children can still have exams.

“These contingencies are always in place and are being very, very closely monitored – particularly to see whether we’re at a tipping point between the mitigations at the moment and whether a contingency has to be put in place to take further mitigations.”