Just one in ten teachers ready to deliver new exams, warns union

Rod Grant is concerned by 'politicisation of educational debate in Scotland'. Picture: Getty
Rod Grant is concerned by 'politicisation of educational debate in Scotland'. Picture: Getty
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FEWER than 10 per cent of teachers are ready for the introduction of the new National qualifications, raising fresh concern about the impact of exams on pupils in Scotland’s schools.

A survey by Scotland’s largest teaching union found just 3 per cent “fully confident” and fewer than 5 per cent “very confident” they would be able to deliver the new National qualifications from next year.

MSPs will today take part in a Holyrood debate over whether the introduction of the new exams, which will replace Standard Grades and Intermediates from 2013-14, should be delayed by a year to give teachers more time to prepare.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), which represents 55,000 teachers, said a survey had shown more than 70 per cent were “barely confident” or “not confident at all” of their department’s readiness to deliver the new qualifications within the current timescale.

More than 2,700 teachers from a random sample of 10,000 responded to the survey, with 90 per cent saying implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence, of which the new exams are part, had increased their workload. More than 80 per cent of respondents described support provided by the Scottish Government as “unsatisfactory”.

In accompanying comments, one teacher said preparation for the new exams had been “farcical”, while another said: “I feel sorry for the kids – this system is completely letting them down.”

Larry Flanagan, incoming general secretary of the EIS, said: “This is the largest CfE survey of Scottish secondary teachers to date, and it paints a very clear picture of teachers’ concerns over the implementation of the senior phase of CfE.

“The overwhelming message is that they do not feel confident regarding their school’s state of readiness to deliver the senior phase of CfE, particularly the new National qualifications, on the current timetable.

“On the vital issue of the new National qualifications, the EIS has long argued that the current timetable for their introduction is too ambitious and that a one-year delay, or at the very least a school option for a one-year delay, should be agreed to allow all teachers the time to become comfortable with the detail of the new exams.”

Earlier this week, education secretary Mike Russell confirmed an “audit” of schools would be carried out in the coming months to make sure they are ready for the new exams.

There is a growing level of disquiet after East Renfrewshire Council, 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.

Speaking ahead of today’s parliamentary debate, Labour’s education spokesman, Hugh Henry, said: “Even at this late stage, I appeal to the cabinet secretary to develop a political consensus to work with teachers and parents to do the right thing. A carefully managed delay is far better than chaos and confusion.”

Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith added: “I don’t believe that any of us in this chamber can tell exactly how many schools are ready and how many schools are not. What I do believe is that the schools themselves can tell us and they must be allowed to decide.”

But education secretary Mike Russell said: “We need to bear in mind that this survey represents 8 per cent of the secondary school teacher workforce.”