Scottish exam system changed to ease workload

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Invigilator watching exam progressImage source, Getty Images

Scotland's examination system is to be changed in an effort to cut the workload of both teachers and pupils.

A scheme that had allowed candidates who failed a National 5 exam to then automatically receive a National 4 pass as a fallback is to be scrapped.

The Scottish government said the change would also prevent a significant number of students being put forward for the wrong qualification.

The EIS teaching union has welcomed the change.

National 4 and 5 replaced standard grades in the new curriculum.

Unlikely to fail

Currently, learners can be put forward for a National 5 course while simultaneously completing National 4 unit assessments.

This allows those who are unsuccessful in gaining a National 5 qualification to receive a National 4 certificate.

However, the combination led to concerns that pupils unlikely to fail their National 5 were needlessly completing National 4 assessments, while those unlikely to pass National 5 were sitting the exam unnecessarily.

Image source, Getty Images

The system - called Recognising Positive Achievement - was introduced as an interim measure two years ago.

According to the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) about 10% of National 4 certifications were awarded as a result of the Recognising Positive Achievement scheme.

The Scottish government said the change would mean that learners would only be put forward for the appropriate qualification in future.

'Needs and aspirations'

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "All of our young people deserve to experience a rich and meaningful learning and teaching experience tailored according to their needs.

"Part of that is making sure that they are presented at the correct level for national assessments.

"SQA figures show that this year alone Recognising Positive Achievement accounted for over 10% of all reported National 4 entries.

"Teacher judgement is key to ensuring that learners are presented at the most appropriate level for their needs and aspirations."

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland said the change would provide clarity to schools on the issue.

He added: "Whilst we would have preferred an announcement in time for this year's cohort, the statement means that going forward, schools will be able to plan course options for pupils with greater certainty, and in ways that could reduce assessment-related workload for students and teachers."