Scotland politics

SSTA poll finds more schools 'ignoring' new curriculum exams

Pupils taking exams
Image caption The SSTA poll found S2 pupils were still being asked to choose exam subjects in some schools

Many secondary schools in Scotland seem to be ignoring official guidance on the new curriculum, a poll has found.

In a survey by the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) 45% of respondents said pupils in their schools were still making their subject choices at the end of second year.

East Renfrewshire has already postponed new exams under the Curriculum for Excellence framework by a year.

The Scottish government said there was widespread support for the new system.

As part of the Curriculum for Excellence schools are being encouraged to move to a new exams structure which aims to give pupils a broader based education.

Rather than choose a narrower range of subjects in second year, pupils would instead wait until the end of third year to make their subject choices.

They would then go on to sit the new National 4 and National 5 exams - which replace Standard Grade and Intermediate qualifications.

The idea of Curriculum for Excellence is to move from a 2+2+2 system, where secondary education was taught in two year blocks, to a 3+3 approach.

Steady approach

However, the interim findings of an SSTA survey, due to be completed next week, appear to suggest many schools have still not made the change, with 45% saying subjects choices were made in S2 and 46% saying pupils decided in their schools in S3.

Of the teachers who took part in the poll, 3% said they did not know which model their school was opting for.

Anne Ballinger, general secretary of the SSTA, said the whole idea behind the new curriculum was based on an ethos of choice.

"Schools and local authorities should not be forced or encouraged to adopt a particular model but should be able to choose the model best suited to the pupils in their community," she added.

She said it was unfortunate that there seemed to a be a "rush" to introduce the new exams, particularly given that the outlines for new courses would not be available till April.

She insisted: "A slow and steady approach would produce far better results."

Mr Russell has previously said he wants uniform implementation of the new exams.

Current second year high school pupils should be the first to sit them in 2014, with the qualifications replacing Standard and Intermediate grades.

East Renfrewshire Council announced last month it planned to postpone implementation of the new exams and Scotland's biggest teaching union, the EIS has called for them to be delayed to give schools more time to prepare.

'Widespread delays'

Scottish Labour branded moves to the new system as "chaotic" and said the SSTA survey highlighted "widespread" delays in putting the new curriculum into practice.

The party's spokesman for learning and skills, Neil Findlay, said: "It is clear that Michael Russell's view that this was only happening in East Renfrewshire is incorrect.

"Even within the same local authority area, schools are doing different things with some pupils choosing subjects at the end of S2 and others at the end of S3.

"The situation is chaotic - pupils, parents and teachers deserve better. The case for delaying the transition to the new exams gets stronger by the day."

Education Secretary Mike Russell said: "There is widespread support (in schools) for the model that is being supported nationally and that is what will be implemented.

"One local authority has chosen to do something different because it is coming from a different starting point."

He said he hoped schools would listen to advice and assistance from HMIE and ensure the advantages of the Curriculum for Excellence are delivered.

He added: "I am not imposing anything. This is a very longstanding agreement which everybody has signed up to - trade unions, every organisation on the management board, and every political party."

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