British islands consider adopting Scottish Highers

The ferry terminal at Douglas on the Isle of Man. Picture: PA
The ferry terminal at Douglas on the Isle of Man. Picture: PA
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Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are considering adopting Scottish Highers in place of A-levels amid concerns over English educational reform.

The three Crown dependencies, which traditionally follow the English curriculum, are understood to be seeking alternatives to the current system because of fears Westminster reforms led by Education Secretary Michael Gove will damage young people’s prospects.

Guernsey’s education leader has met Scottish Government officials and Education Scotland as concerns grow that English plans for end-of-year exams at 16 and 18 will disadvantage some pupils.

Despite criticism in Scotland, schools in England and as far afield as Romania have considered adopting Curriculum for Excellence, first introduced in 2010.

The Scottish system, which encourages all-through learning – the use of multiple approaches to achieve educational goals – between the ages of three and 18, is increasingly at odds with reforms in England, which put emphasis on end-of-year tests.

Guernsey’s education director, Alan Brown, said pupils on the island could be sitting Highers by 2015-16.

“The way his [Mr Gove’s] proposals would move the qualifications framework is at odds with what a lot of other countries are doing,” he said. “Not all young people learn the same way. Some people find a system based on terminal exams difficult, and some subject areas are better

assessed by other methods.

“Effectively moving to a two-year course with a question paper at the end for 16-year-olds and then again for 18-year-olds will seriously disadvantage some of our young people.”

Mr Brown said Guernsey was considering either “mirroring” Scotland or a “pick and mix” approach of best practice from around the British Isles.

Martin Barrow, education director for the Isle of Man, said his officials were also reviewing options. “These include consideration of the system in place in Scotland as well as what Wales and Northern Ireland are planning to do once their link with England disappears,” he said.

However, he said the Isle of Man had not ruled out maintaining its link with England, with a decision due by summer 2014.

A spokeswoman for Jersey’s education department said officials had looked at Scotland, but the process was at a less advanced stage than in Guernsey.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have had very productive discussions with colleagues in Guernsey and beyond about Curriculum for Excellence We share the view that having a qualification system which supports deeper learning and skills development is the best approach.”

But the UK Department of Education spokeswoman said: “Our reforms will enhance A levels and GCSEs to better prepare students for higher education.”