Teachers have warned they may not be ready to deliver courses for the new National qualifications, which are being brought in to replace Standard Grades and Intermediates, amid concerns over a lack of preparation.
The delay announced by the school minister today comes head of a meeting of Holyrood’s education committee next week which was scheduled to hear union concerns over the situation.
About 65,000 pupils in S4 are studying for the National 4 and National5, with the first candidates due to sit the exams in April.
Schools minister Alasdair Allan yesterday revealed more preparation time is to be set aside under a package of measures, as well as greater awareness raising among parents.
The deal includes £4.75 million for councils to fund more time for teachers and schools to ensure the change to the new national qualifications, including the new Highers, which will be sat by some pupils in 2015.
An additional in-service day in 2014/15 has also been added, alongside £250,000 for local authorities to deliver school events to improve parents’ understanding of the new qualifications.
Dr Allan said: “Teachers and pupils across Scotland are making good progress as they work towards the new National Qualifications and prepare for Highers.
“I want to make sure that we do everything we can to support this work and that is why I am putting in place an additional package to help school and authority level preparations.
“This £5 million support will ensure that teachers get the time and space they need to come together to work through assessment procedures, as well as other aspects of the new qualifications.
“In doing so, teachers will be able to make use of new “route-maps” through assessment, developed by Education Scotland. More detailed information on these will be available for headteachers at the first of the four national leadership events, which start on Monday.”
A recent survey by the Scottish Secondary teachers Association (SSTA) found about 60 per cent said they were “not confident” or “not confident at all” in their ability to deliver course material for the Nationals. Nearly 80 per cent gave the same responses when asked about their ability to assess pupils for the new qualifications.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, found last yeat that more than half of teachers were “barely confident” of their school’s readiness to deliver the new exams.
Union leaders had called for the change to be postponed for a year and this has already been agreed in East Renfrewshire. But the Government has ruled out delay across the country.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said the new support package is a “positive development” that will be very welcome in our secondary schools.
“Teachers are continuing to work extremely hard to assimilate new assessment requirements and to ensure that pupils are fully prepared for the first set of National exams in May,” he said.
“It is encouraging that the Scottish Government and the national education bodies are listening to teachers’ concerns that the EIS raised relating to both workload and bureaucracy, and are taking steps to lighten the load and increase support for teachers and pupils.”
The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has also announced that it is modifying the approach to quality assurance of the new qualifications.
Dr Janet Brown, chief executive of SQA, said “The decision to make the modification we are announcing today was based on the sound intelligence from the verification to date and intelligence from schools.
“It will allow schools and colleges to concentrate on key aspects of national standards, while giving teachers time to focus on coursework and exam preparation.”