Q. One recurring concern is that there seems to be a great deal of autonomy within individual Secondary Schools regarding the delivery of the new curriculum. Will there be consistency across each Local Education Authority? For example will all Angus Secondary School be offering say 6 subjects at National 5 level at S4? If consistency is not maintained locally or nationally will it not disadvantage some youngsters when they come apply for University or Further Education?
A. One of the notable benefits of Curriculum for Excellence is that it offers schools greater freedom to tailor their curriculum to best meet the needs of young people in that school. Clearly Scottish schools serve very diverse catchments and one curriculum model does not necessarily suit all schools.
That said, the emerging curriculum models for the senior phase (S4-6) suggest that most young people will be studying 5 or 6 subjects in S4 compared to the current 7 or 8. It should be borne in mind that, although many young people follow 7 or 8 courses in S3/4, on average SQA data shows they currently achieve only 5 or 6 awards. In S5 and 6 young people in most schools currently have the option to study up to 5 courses in a year and this will not change with CfE.
In Angus, the position agreed with all eight schools is clear cut. From 2013/14, all secondary schools will be following what’s called a 5 column model in S4-6. This means that in S4 pupils will choose 5 subjects to study with English and maths compulsory for most learners in S4. However, it will be possible for Angus schools to ‘adapt’ this model – in S4 only – by splitting one of the 5 columns to allow young people to follow 6 courses. To create time for effectively an ‘extra’ subject, it will mean a start to National 4 or National 5 English and maths during S3 rather than at the start of S4. No other National courses will commence in S3.
There is no evidence to suggest that entry to FE or HE will be in any way impaired by following any particular model and so no need to be concerned about disadvantage from one authority or school to another.
Q. What work is being undertaken both locally and nationally to prepare Universities and FE Colleges for the first influx of students, in several years’ time, with the new qualifications?
A. FE and HE institutions are represented on the CFE management board which overseas the roll-out of CfE and they are also directly involved with SQA in developing the new national qualifications. They are, and will be, wholly familiar with the development of new national qualifications when FE or HE entrants arrive from 2014 onward. Locally, we work closely with Angus College and the universities and are already discussing what implications CfE will bring for the existing school-college partnership. This is likely to impact most on how we work with Angus College and at S3/4 level only.
Q. Have you had any feedback from secondary schools as to how they plan to implement a timetable that accommodates two different sets of exams? Presumably the current S.2 will continue to study the old curriculum and examinations until they reach S6, increasingly becoming a smaller proportion of the school population until they leave. What safeguards are being put into place to ensure that they don’t lose opportunities in subject breadth as resources are put into the new curriculum?
A. Standard Grade exams will cease to be available after 2012/13. From 2013/14 onward, all young people in S4 will commence five or six new Access 3, National 4 or National 5 courses in S4, depending on their previous progress and achievement.
Intermediate 1 and 2, currently used by some schools as a two year course in S3/4 but mainly as a one year course in S5 or 6, will continue to run alongside the new National 4 and 5 for one year only until 2014/15. This dual running is likely to be used sparingly for the small number of pupils who may have started a two year Intermediate course in 2012/13 or, more likely, who need to resit a final exam.
The current Highers and Advanced Highers will cease after 2014/15. New Higher qualifications will also commence in 2014/15 and for this one year, and at Higher level only, there will be dual running of old or new Highers. This situation is similar to the introduction of Higher Still approximately ten years ago and is unlikely to present any significant problems. It will certainly not narrow choice or opportunity.
So, a pupil currently in S2 pupil will commence either Standard Grades or Intermediates as an S3 pupil in 2011/12 and be presented for these exams as an S4 pupil in 2012/13. No change to the current situation. As an S5 pupil in 2013/14, they will sit (as appropriate to their prior progress and achievement) existing Highers.
In 2014/15, as an S6 pupil, they will follow either existing advanced Highers or new Highers. It is likely that only small numbers of pupils might be presented for an existing Higher in 2014/15 where they need to resit an exam or complete a two year Higher.
The existing national qualifications are well resourced and staff are thoroughly experienced in their delivery. There is no reason to assume that the teaching of these courses will be compromised in any way as staff develop new national qualifications. Schools are continually undertaking curriculum development work alongside the delivery of courses and will be able to do so at this time.