Roll out of new Scottish Higher exams delayed

The roll out of the new Scottish Highers exams has been delayed. Picture: PA
The roll out of the new Scottish Highers exams has been delayed. Picture: PA
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THE Scottish Government has revealed the roll-out of some of Scotland’s new Higher exams has been delayed.

After widespread pressure from teachers, some schools will bring in the implementation of the revised Highers in 2014-15, while other schools will offer it for the first time in 2015-16.

Unions have welcomed the decision by ministers, claiming that many schools are not yet ready for the change because of the extra work associated with the new exams, which are part of the Curriculum for Excellence programme.

A number of councils, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, have said that not all schools were ready for the new ­examinations.

On Friday, the minister for learning, Alasdair Allan, confirmed the government was prepared to climb down from its original deadline.

He said that introduction of the exams could be delayed if it was in the best interests of the pupils.

Mr Allan added: “Across the country, from teachers to parents to directors of education, the national expectation ­remains that young people will sit the new Highers in 2014-15.

“We believe for most pupils this will be the best option representing a natural transition from National 5.

“However, as we have made clear, Curriculum for Excellence is founded on the professional judgment of teachers.

“Where a principal teacher, for example, considers the best interests of a young person will be served by using the existing Higher for a further year, then they should be able to work with their school, local authority and, critically, the parent body to agree this.

“It is important that schools engage with parents to ensure they have confidence in arrangements for their children.”

The learning minister’s ­remarks backed up those made by the education secretary Michael Russell earlier this week, when he conceded that principal teachers could choose to delay the new system.

The ministers’ comments represent a change in position from one expressed by Scottish Government officials a few weeks ago which suggested the revised Highers would be implemented “in line with the national ­timetable”.

But opposition politicians claimed that the government appeared to be in disarray over the issue.

Scottish Labour’s education spokeswoman Kezia Dugdale said: “Parents and students must be wondering what is going on with the constant delays and changes to something so fundamentally important to their lives as school exams.

“The education secretary appears to be in utter disarray.

“If Mike Russell had worked with teachers and local authorities rather than railroading through these plans, then we wouldn’t be in this situation. He was repeatedly warned this would happen.

“We now find ourselves in the situation where children around the country are sitting different types of exam depending on where they live.

“The education of children has to come first.”

She added: “Mike Russell will have a lot of angry parents at his door if this has consequences for the education prospects of their children.”

The Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “The Scottish Government has at last been forced to adopt some common sense. But not before everyone has become thoroughly confused about the its stance on this very important issue.

“First the Scottish Government said everything was on track, then we heard it was considering banning councils from introducing delays. Now the green light has been given for deferrals.

“This kind of confusion is extremely unhelpful for all concerned – be it parents, pupils or teaching staff.

“We’ve become used to hearing a lot of bravado and bluster from the education secretary, but even he can’t deny that this is a very embarrassing situation for the Scottish Government.”