Scottish National Exam Delays – Will Cash Injection Announcement stop Educational Crisis?

Dramatic U-turn from Mike Russell, Scottish Education Secretary

Today, Mike Russell, The Scottish Education Secretary announced that the Scottish Government would inject £3.5 million and create two extra in service days to help Scottish Secondary Schools prepare for the new National 4 & 5 exams due to be introduced in 2013-2014.  He also announced that the SQA and Education Scotland will be working together to prepare course material for all subjects which can be adapted to suit individual schools.

Education Scotland will also be undertaking an audit of Secondary Schools to establish whether they are in fact ready to introduce the National Exams on schedule.

Since East Renfrewshire Council announced they intended to delay the introduction of the National Exams by a year, there has been a huge response from Secondary teachers and The Herald Scotland reported that in a survey three quarters of teachers felt unprepared and unready.

This announcement today by the Scottish Government has been welcomed in many quarters and most are pleased that their concerns are being heard.  Mike Russell is keen for the National Exams to be launched on schedule and does not support blanket delays but admits schools will have the option to delay if they are not ready.

However, opposition to the SNP have been quick to Comment.

Labour education spokesman Hugh Henry said: “This announcement from the SNP Government is a belated but welcome recognition that there are real problems with the readiness for Curriculum for Excellence in some schools and opens the door to delaying the new curriculum.  Mr Russell has been forced into finding £3.5m to fix a mess that has been of his own making”.

Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “Two additional days of in-service training may well provide some extra classroom support for some teachers, but it comes very late in the day and it does not get to the root of the problem.”

What Does this Actually Mean?

  • £3.5million equates to approximately £10,000 per school.  Is this enough to make an impact?
  • One of the biggest issues was that teachers were having to find the time to prepare new materials for the curriculum from scratch and obviously duplication in material would be an issue.  Having nationally prepared course materials will significantly ease the burden on teachers.
  • Two more  in service days for teacher training – Great for the teachers but a headache for parents (2 more holidays?)
  • The Option to delay if an audit reveals that a school is not ready – Whilst Mike Russell insists that most schools are on track and he does not sanction a blanket delay, I wonder how many schools will actually opt to delay?  This could become very confusing for employers and Colleges. 
  • Personally, in light of the concerns that my own tutors (who teach in mainstream schools) have, I would have thought a blanket delay of a year would be the most practical solution.

My Opinion

Many of our students at Kip McGrath are S1 and S2 students and I am finding more and more parents are asking my advice and very concerned that their children will be the guinea pigs for these new exams.  Now that the concerns of teachers are out in the open and actually the Scottish Government are listening and taking action, I am more hopeful.  We have a wonderful history of great education in Scotland and I hope we maintain that with Curriculum For Excellence.

Hopefully the Scottish Government will continue to listen to Teachers and take action where appropriate to ensure our children receive the best possible education and ensure they do not suffer as a result of these changes being rushed through too quickly.  Only time will tell.

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