Teachers ignored amid exam chiefs’ ‘backslapping’

A LAWYER set to become the head of one of Scotland’s largest teaching unions has launched an attack on the exams body over its handling of the new National qualifications.

Teachers have been ignored by exam bosses too busy backslapping each other, an incoming teachers' union leader has said. Picture: Flickr/Richard Lee
Teachers have been ignored by exam bosses too busy backslapping each other, an incoming teachers' union leader has said. Picture: Flickr/Richard Lee

Sheila Mechan, who is expected to be elected general-secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) next week, said both the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Education Scotland – the body charged with supporting quality and improvement in education – were too busy “slapping themselves on the back” over Curriculum for Excellence and had failed to listen to the concerns of teachers.

Thousands are preparing for the Nationals, which will be sat for the first time in the spring, replacing Standard Grades and Intermediates.

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Despite assurances from the SQA and education secretary Mike Russell that teachers’ concerns have been listened to, unions have warned that their members lack confidence teaching the new qualifications and have had little in the way of support.

Ms Mechan said teachers were sick of hearing “platitudes” from the exams body. She called for on-site support and a helpline for teachers.

“I’m finding it really difficult to quantify what the SQA’s response (to teachers’ concerns) has been,” she said. “They’re putting out all these platitudes in the press, saying they’re offering support but, according to their website, they have only actually visited two schools.

“Talking as a lawyer, if something goes wrong, one of the tests is forseeability. The SQA and Education Scotland will fail the forseeability test if the Nationals don’t go well because it will have been forseeable as teachers have been warning about it for months.

“You could put the blame at the foot of the education minister, but the fact of the matter is you have a policy and people like the SQA and Education Scotland are there to implement it. They’re still back-slapping about Curriculum for Excellence, but it’s implementation time now.”

Yesterday, the country’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, warned that teachers need a lighter workload if pupils are not to suffer during the implementation of the new exams.

The union wants the SQA to suspend its “verification” scheme, which assesses how teachers are grading work.

SQA chief executive Dr Janet Brown said: “We continue to be open and respond to comments and feedback from all parties.

“We have events planned across the country to support teachers with the delivery of National 3 to National 5 and Higher. To date, 103 events have taken place with 43 due to be complete by end of March.

“SQA has also worked with local authorities to provide additional continuing professional development in the areas they have requested. To date, 62 events have taken place with
another 235 planned.”