This opinion piece by Education Scotland’s Strategic Director for School Years, Graeme Logan appeared in The Herald on Friday 1 August 2014.
Learners and teachers across Scotland have been working very hard, and next week will see the culmination of their efforts as qualification results are published. The introduction of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and the new national qualifications are significant milestones for Scottish education. Feedback from learners and examination centres during and after the exam period indicates that things have gone well so far.
The new national qualifications have been designed to build on CfE in a way that makes learning more relevant for today. They are different from Standard Grade, Access and Intermediate qualifications, and direct comparisons with results from previous years are neither possible nor appropriate.
One of the objectives of our new curriculum is to allow for personalised learning, which aims to ensure that every learner gains the skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications that will see them equipped to succeed in our modern world. Learners are following a far greater variety of “pathways” as they progress through their learning than previously.
Local authorities and individual schools have been developing their curriculum to meet the needs of their pupils at local level. In best practice, young people and their parents have been fully involved as decisions are made. One key difference to previous years, is that many learners are taking qualifications in fewer subjects at the end of S4. Schools have made these changes to ensure greater depth in learning and best possible levels of achievement for young people. As they move into S5 and S6, it is anticipated that some may take courses in different subjects from those studied in S4. The senior phase should be viewed as a phase of learning with flexible progression routes which allow all young people to build up a portfolio of qualifications and awards appropriate to their needs by the time they leave school. It is important to remember that as part of CfE, young people will have studied all subjects to a higher standard than ever before, giving them a better broad general education and a stronger platform to build on.
Some schools have changed the timescales over which young people study for qualifications, for example “by-passing” qualification in S4, and instead following a two-year course to Higher in S5. The guiding principle is that qualifications, awards and achievements are taken at the right pace and stage for the individual over the senior phase, which for an increasing number of young people, will be up to three years.
Schools and centres will currently be considering how the first year of the senior phase has gone, to build on experiences of the new qualifications and make changes to ensure learners are getting the high-quality education they deserve. We have already seen changes made to the SQA’s verification process which aim to simplify the system whilst maintaining standards.
Whilst we provide a very wide range of support, working directly with practitioners as well as publishing materials and resources, we continue to extend our offer of tailored support to any school which requires it. We are here to support practitioners and schools so that they can do their job to the best of their ability. We shall continue to work alongside our national education partners to ensure that all learners are being served well whilst working closely with the National Parent Forum of Scotland to ensure that the interests of parents are also considered and taken account of.
My thanks, once again go to all the teachers who have worked so hard this year. To the young people receiving results, I wish you all the very best. Remember, there are many ways to get advice and support if you need it.
Pupils can contact the SQA’s candidate advice line on 0345 279 1000 or Skills Development Scotland Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000. Your own school is of course best placed to help plan next steps in learning.
Strategic Director School Years