SCHOOL pupils in East Lothian and across Scotland will not sit exams this year amid fears over the spread of Coronavirus, the Education Secretary has announced.

John Swinney said that prior attainment, coursework and teacher estimates would be used to determine pupils' grades after taking the "unprecedented" step to cancel the exam diet.

It comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday (Wednesday) announced that all schools and nurseries would close from the end of the week.

Announcing the decision at the Scottish Parliament today, Mr Swinney said: "In all of our history, Scotland has never cancelled the exams. Since 1888 they have been held every May and June without fail.

"In the midst of two world wars, the exams went ahead.

"It is a measure of the gravity of the challenges that we now face that I must today announce that the exams will not go ahead this year."

A statement from the chief executive of the SQA said: "This is an unprecedented situation, and the closure of schools for an extended period will affect almost every family across Scotland.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has recently been working through a range of scenarios in relation to the exam diet, including disruption and postponement. However, as the Deputy First Minister has outlined in Parliament today, the exam diet in 2020 cannot go ahead and I have been asked by the Deputy First Minister to develop an alternative certification model.

"That work has started, at pace, and I will say more on that as soon as I can. What I can say now is that we want to ensure that we have as much information on the achievements of learners as possible.

"That is why the Deputy First Minister has asked schools and colleges to continue to work with young people to ensure that any units and coursework are completed and estimated grades are provided by teachers, drawing on the available evidence gathered throughout the year, to SQA’s existing deadlines, or earlier if that is possible. For many learners, we will also have prior attainment information which will be helpful to us.

"I fully appreciate that this will be an uncertain time for learners who have worked hard throughout the year and will now, with their families, be worried about what this means for them. Everyone here at SQA will do their utmost, with the support of the education system, to ensure that their hard work is rightly and fairly recognised, and allows them to proceed to further learning or work.

"We will work to ensure that learners receive their results no later than August 4, as planned. We are considering more fully the impact this decision will have on our exceptional circumstances and post-results services. I will confirm that we will offer a free post-results service to ensure that schools and colleges continue to have a mechanism to question any result.

"I would strongly encourage all candidates to sign up to MySQA, our online and text service, as a direct way to receive their results.

"Everyone at SQA is fully committed to delivering for Scotland’s young people at this exceptionally difficult time. "