Concern raised over move to new exams

Borders pupils will soon be sitting a new exam.
Borders pupils will soon be sitting a new exam.
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This year’s Borders S4 pupils in schools will be the first to sit the new National qualifications that replace Standard Grades.

Those staying on afterwards to take Highers will also be the first group of students to face new exams at that level too, the aim of the new Curriculum for Excellence exams being to provide a smooth progression from S4 to S5 work.

In a briefing to Scottish Borders Council’s education committee this week, the director of education, Glenn Rodger, said: “There have been some concerns about readiness to implement the new qualifications.

“As the first cohort of Borders pupils progress through National qualifications this session, schools are continuing planning for implementation of the new Highers in 2014-15, which will assess the seven years of study these young people have undertaken in the new curriculum (from P6-S5).”

Credit, General and Foundation level Standard Grades are being replaced with Nation 3 (N3 replacing Foundation level), National 4 (N4 replacing General level) and National 5 (N5 replacing Credit level) courses as part of the Scottish education system’s Curriculum for Excellence. N3 and N4 levels will be assessed internally, the N5 level being assessed through an external examination.

A seamless transition from the new N5 qualification to the new Highers for S5 pupils 2014-15 is the aim, and Mr Rodger added: “Secondary school staff have been working hard to ensure that this cohort experience the highest quality learning and teaching as outline in the entitlements and principles of Curriculum for Excellence and they have been investing significant time and energy into developing new courses to support this.”

There is an option to delay the introduction of the new Highers by a year if schools feel they are not ready and head teachers across the region have been advised that they will need to inform the education department if there are concerns amongst staff about certain subjects. The council’s education department would then have to justify any delays to Education Scotland.

Mr Rodger said: “It is an intense time for staff and it is natural that there is nervousness in the system. It is at times like this that leadership becomes more critical - from national politicians, civil servants, Education Scotland, local authorities and schools.”

Head teachers have been told by SBC: “We require official notification of any department requesting a delay in the schedule with the reasons for this.

“We would expect, then, that internal scrutiny of teachers’ concerns had taken place at senior management team level in school and that support needs had been discussed and identified with teachers and departments to achieve the planned implementation programme.