Schools say ‘pass’ on pupils sitting new Highers

DOZENS of schools across Scotland are delaying introducing new Highers in popular school subjects for another year, it emerged yesterday.

Dozens of Scottish schools are postponing the new Highers. Picture: PA

A survey found that teachers were opting to put off the start of the new Highers system, originally intended to coincide with replacements for Standard Grades. The Scottish Government had told local authorities that the exams could be delayed if teachers felt it was in the best interest of pupils.

The exams will be applied inconsistently across the country, according to the survey of all 32 councils carried out by the BBC.

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Teachers said it was right local authorities were giving schools the option to decide when to implement the exams. The government said it remained commited to the Curriculum for Excellence and had confidence in the choices made by schools.

Some councils have opted to ensure all schools take the same decision on all exams while others are allowing exams in individual subjects to be implemented later.

Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aber­deen councils were unable to give information about schools and subjects to the BBC.

All schools in East Lothian will offer new Highers in English, Maths, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, History, Modern Studies, Geography and History. In West Dunbartonshire, five schools are delaying Chemistry, Physics and Biology, two schools are delaying Geography and one school is delaying Mathematics. Inverclyde Council is delaying Chemistry and Physics across all schools.

A spokesman for Mid­lothian said: “Half of departments within each of our six secondary schools are offering the new Highers and the other half are continuing with the old Highers.”

Most S5 pupils will be studying the new Highers, despite the variation. EIS, the teaching union, said they welcomed the option of delays.

Education convener Susan Quinn said: “The EIS heard a significant amount of concern from teachers regarding the introduction of the new Highers as schools were still working flat-out on the delivery of the new National 4 and National 5 
courses, often without the resources and support that they required.

“While the Scottish Government ruled out the call for a one-year delay in the introduction of new exams, the EIS did welcome the decision to allow individual school departments to opt out of the new Highers if they felt this was in the best interest of pupils.”

Ms Quinn added: “Delivering a programme of change on this scale is always challenging, particularly at a time of budget cuts, scarce resources and declining staff numbers, but teachers will continue to work hard to ensure that all pupils have the best chance to reach their potential no matter what level or type of qualification they are working towards.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As the Cabinet Secretary for Education has made clear, Curriculum for Excellence is founded on the professional judgment of teachers..”