Tories call for more school exams and claim standards ‘going backwards’

The Scottish Conservatives have called for major reform of a key part of Curriculum for Excellence.

At present National 4 does not involve formal exams but relies on continuous assessment. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA

The National 4 qualification “should be completely reformed” so all pupils are required to sit examinations in basic literacy and numeracy, according to the party. Currently, National 4 does not involve formal exams at the end of the course, relying instead on continuous assessment.

The party’s education spokeswoman Liz Smith said the fall in pass rates for Highers is a sign Scottish education has “gone backwards”.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Four years ago, Nicola Sturgeon asked us to ‘judge her on education’,” she said.

“That statement now has a very hollow ring to it. No-one can pretend that all is well in Scotland’s schools.

“Four years on, the recent SQA results show that Scottish education has gone backwards. The pass rates for Higher and Advanced Higher are the lowest since the Curriculum for Excellence was introduced and there has been a fall in Higher pass rates for four consecutive years.

“That is a trend and a very worrying one, especially when the Higher is supposed to be the gold standard of Scottish education.”

Smith added: “Our pupils and schools are being let down by the SNP’s botched implementation of the curriculum and its qualifications system. Above all, National 4 should be completely reformed with new exams in basic literacy and numeracy.

“A renewed focus on core skills in literacy and numeracy at the Broad General Education phase and National 4 level would be far more complementary to vocational training and better prepare young people for the world of work.”

According to the Scottish Government’s own website, Curriculum for Excellence is designed to achieve a transformation in education in Scotland by providing a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum from ages 3 to 18.

The term curriculum is understood to mean everything that is planned for children and young people throughout their education, not just what happens in the classroom.

It includes four contexts for learning: curriculum areas and subjects, interdisciplinary learning, ethos and life of the school and opportunities for personal achievement.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Under CfE, all teachers and other practitioners are responsible for the development of learners’ literacy and numeracy, as well as their health and wellbeing, across the whole curriculum from age three to 18. This includes National 4 qualifications which are a key part of the range of awards and qualifications on offer.

“Following a review by the Curriculum and Assessment Board, which represents all parts of our education system, there remain strong educational reasons for having no exam at National 4.”