Fears remain over Curriculum for Excellence exams

More than two thirds of EIS members expressed concerns. Picture: Ian Rutherford
More than two thirds of EIS members expressed concerns. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A SURVEY of Scotland’s teachers has found “significant concerns” remain over the introduction of new exams as part of the country’s fledgling school curriculum.

The poll by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) found two-thirds of those taking part believe they have received “unsatisfactory” levels of support in implementing Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) in the later years, or “senior phase”, of secondary school.

Teachers have repeatedly warned that many schools are not ready for the introduction of the new National Qualifications from later this year, which will replace Standard Grades and Intermediates.

The EIS, the country’s largest teaching union, said interim results of a national survey of its members based on a representative sample of 1,000 teachers had shown that many in the profession remain unhappy about the “extremely ambitious” and “rushed” timetable for introducing the new exams.

The National 4, which replaces the Standard Grade (General) and Intermediate 1, and the National 5, which replaces Standard Grade (Credit) and Intermediate 2, will be introduced at the start of the next school year, with the first exams being sat in 2014. The new qualifications are part of CfE, which was introduced in 2010 and has divided teachers ever since.

The EIS found that more than two-thirds of its members who responded to the survey felt they had not had enough support from their local authority, Education Scotland or the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

And 40 per cent of teachers said their school had not received previously agreed additional financial support for the new National qualifications from the Scottish Government.

Kay Barnett, convener of the EIS’ education committee, said: “While these interim results only provide a snapshot of the overall picture of CfE senior phase development, a number of key issues of concern are already apparent. Secondary teachers and further education lecturers are very clear on the need for better information and resource materials to support the implementation of the senior phase of CfE.

“The fact that over three-quarters of teachers and lecturers are still calling for both new course materials and proper assessment exemplification from the SQA to support the new National Qualifications highlights significant concern within the teaching profession. We know that new materials are being produced, but the message from Scotland’s teaching professionals is that we need them now and we need them to be of high quality.”

Ms Barnett added: “The EIS was a consistent, and lone, voice in highlighting the rushed timetable for the introduction of the new National Qualifications. We were the only teaching or educational organisation to call for a national one-year delay on the introduction of the new National Qualifications – a plea from the teaching profession that the Scottish Government, unfortunately, did not act upon.”

Labour’s education spokesman Hugh Henry MSP said education secretary Mike Russell had “failed to listen” to the concerns of teachers.

“Mike Russell has been consistently complacent on the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence,” he said. “Any action he has taken has been limited and belated.

“Pupils, parents and teachers need a guarantee that promises will be delivered. We cannot afford any slip-ups with the future of our young people. Mike Russell needs to address these worrying findings.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Curriculum for Excellence is being developed with an unprecedented level of collaboration and partnership among education professionals, parents and others, including the EIS. We recognise that teachers across Scotland are working hard to deliver CfE and we are increasingly seeing the benefits for pupils.

“We have listened to teachers and responded with extra support. A wide range of course and assessment materials are already available for the new qualifications, with more to come in the next three months. Local authorities have welcomed the support from Education Scotland and SQA as well as the additional £3.5 million provided by the Scottish Government to support implementation and every element of support has been delivered on time or ahead of schedule. We will continue to listen to teachers, parents and pupils in shaping future support.”