Exams Scotland: Majority of Scottish teachers oppose scrapping exams for S4 pupils

Huge survey finds 57 per cent of teachers ‘disagree’ with the proposal

Calls to scrap exams for S4 pupils in Scotland have been dealt a significant blow after a major consultation found a majority of teachers oppose the idea.

A total of 57 per cent of respondents to a survey of school and college teachers “disagreed” with the recommendation, which was made in a key report by Professor Louise Hayward last year.

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The consultation, which was commissioned by education secretary Jenny Gilruth and reached more than 10,000 people, found staff were “concerned” that pupils would “struggle with the transition to Highers” if examinations were removed for the likes of National 5.

Pupils in examPupils in exam
Pupils in exam

They also had questions about how internal assessments could be marked “fairly and consistently” across the country and whether internally assessed qualifications would be seen as “credible” by employers and further and higher education institutions. Meanwhile, those surveyed noted the “workload implications for teachers” if they were to be responsible for internal assessment.

A total of 31 per cent of those surveyed listed removing external assessment at Level 5 as among the most important proposals.

The finding comes despite the Hayward recommendations, which were published in June last year, winning strong backing from the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, School Leaders Scotland, and the Association of Education Directors in Scotland.

The recommendation to end exams below Higher level was made after concerns were previously raised about the “two-term dash” in schools, with pupils in Scotland said to be among the most heavily examined in the world.

Critics of the move to cut exams have included the likes of Scottish Qualifications Authority chief executive Fiona Robertson, and Lindsay Paterson, emeritus professor of education policy at the University of Edinburgh, who feared it would “widen inequality and weaken rigour”.

Ms Gilruth is still to officially respond to the Hayward review, initially saying she wanted to consult teachers. She subsequently delayed a Holyrood debate on the blueprint last year to give schools time to deal with other pressures, such as rising classroom violence and poor attendance.

However, the SNP minister, a former teacher, has repeatedly cast doubt on the idea there is a widespread appetite for “radical change” among teachers. The newly-published details of the consultation results appear to explain why she reached this conclusion.

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Scrapping exams at S4 was the recommendation which most respondents disagreed with, at 57 per cent, followed by plans for new emphasis on “project learning”, opposed by 44 per cent, while the “personal pathway” element was rejected by 39 per cent.

In terms of the recommendations considered the “most important”, 68 per cent highlighted the need for an expanded programme of workforce learning and development, saying teachers would need time to undertake an “extensive programme of professional learning and development to deliver the changes” proposed, and that the other proposals “cannot be achieved without this”.

The consultation featured an online survey, which ran between July and November last year, and received 2,152 responses, of which 61 per cent were from individuals and 39 per cent were from groups. The group responses represented the views of around 9,300 people.



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