Schools cut textbooks to pay for exam photocopying

Costs associated with Scotland's new exams are causing cutbacks. Picture: PA
Costs associated with Scotland's new exams are causing cutbacks. Picture: PA
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SCHOOLS are being forced to skimp on textbooks as they struggle to cope with administration and photocopying costs associated with Scotland’s new exams, it has been claimed.

Unions have criticised the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) for passing on the responsibility and cost of producing materials for the new National courses.

Thousands of pupils across Scotland will sit their National 5 exams in a matter of weeks amid growing concerns from teachers about how the implementation of the new qualifications has been handled.

Alan McKenzie, of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said some schools had already cut back spending on textbooks to cope with the rising costs of delivering the Nationals.

He said a typical subject department budget was around £3,000, with about a quarter usually spent on photocopying, mainly for the cost of paper.

However, some departments are now spending up to £1,600 on reproducing materials, meaning they will run out of money in January and will have to cut back on S1 and S2 textbooks.

Larry Flanagan, general-secretary of the country’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: “The SQA has effectively abandoned printed materials as a method of distribution, relying on its website,” he said.

“But schools often need hard copies to support teaching and learning, especially for pupil materials, and this means that the costs transfer from the SQA to schools.”

Teachers have repeatedly raised concerns about the new exams, which have replaced Standard Grades and are part of the continued roll out of Curriculum for Excellence.

The EIS had previously called for the introduction of the exams to be delayed by a year, a move already made by East Renfrewshire Council, home to some of Scotland’s best-performing state schools, but not adopted elsewhere. However, the idea of a delay was rejected by the Scottish Government.

Bryan Paterson, headteacher of Kilmarnock Academy, said changes to the way schools obtained materials from the SQA amounted to 13,000 extra sheets of photocopying over the course of a year at his school.

“While I acknowledge that in this time of austerity we all have to tighten our belts and ensure that we use resources more efficiently, I find it unacceptable that SQA has transferred these costs to schools.

“I don’t think anyone outwith schools, let alone the SQA, fully realises the administrative and financial burden being placed with regards to new examination arrangements.”

Mr Paterson highlighted a 13-page administration and IT National 5 paper, which staff will have to reproduce 25 times.

“I think it is a scandal that these have not been provided to centres as has been the case in the past,” he said.

A spokesman for the SQA said: “We encourage practitioners to use the SQA website.

“Given the extent of the support materials the SQA produces, the website is the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective way of disseminating this information.”