Exams delay could jeopardise children’s chances, say parents

Mike Russell: Has insisted there will be no delays. Picture: Jane Barlow
Mike Russell: Has insisted there will be no delays. Picture: Jane Barlow
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PARENTS have appealed to Scotland’s schools not to put off the introduction of controversial new exams after education secretary Michael Russell said he would allow some to opt for a one-year delay.

Mr Russell was accused of a “U-turn” after announcing that schools could choose to postpone the introduction of the new National qualifications should they not feel “sufficiently on track” by June.

But Scotland’s two main parents’ groups have called on schools to press ahead with the qualifications, amid fears that the uncertainty could undermine their children’s learning.

Last month, East Renfrewshire, which is home to some of the country’s best-performing state schools, said it would delay the introduction of the Nationals by a year to give its teachers more time to prepare.

While no other council has asked to delay, it is understood there is considerable disquiet in some schools that they will not be ready for the new qualifications, which are being introduced in 2013-14.

The Scottish Government has now announced a support package which includes an extra £3.5 million to allow schools to pay for additional supply cover, which will release classroom teachers to prepare for the new courses. There will also be an additional two in-service days.

But in a letter to the convener of the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, Mr Russell said some schools might also consider switching to Intermediates for pupils currently in S2, thereby delaying the introduction of Nationals.

Tina Woolnough, a spokeswoman for the National Parent Forum Scotland, said: “I have never met a parent who is keen for a delay. Teachers would have to re-course [for Intermediates] in most schools, and that would be a massive hike in their workloads.

“I think it’s politics that are driving this, particularly May’s local government elections. The exams are two years away – how long do people need?

“Parents hate the politicisation of education. They want everybody to focus on what’s best for children.”

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: “There remain significant concerns about the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence which are not tackled in these new plans, most critically the issue of effective communication with parents.

“Despite the concerns parents have, they are generally supportive of the timetable for introduction of the new National qualifications and concerned and disappointed at the message East Renfrewshire Council’s decision sends out.”

Scotland’s new National qualifications explained