‘Shambles’ as schools set to delay new exams

One of the country's largest teaching unions said preparations for the Nationals had been 'shambolic'. Picture: PA
One of the country's largest teaching unions said preparations for the Nationals had been 'shambolic'. Picture: PA
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THE introduction of Scotland’s first new exams in a generation has been thrown into doubt after teachers complained of “shambolic” preparations and councils warned of plans to delay their implementation.

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow councils said many of their schools may yet seek to delay the introduction of the new Higher exam by a year due to problems with the continued roll-out of the Nationals, which are replacing Standard Grades.

Yesterday, one of the country’s largest teaching unions, the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said preparations for the Nationals had been “shambolic”, with many schools forced to delay their prelims until just a month before the final exam.

The first pupils to sit the Nationals will do so next summer and had been expected to then progress on to the new Higher qualifications.

However, some councils are allowing schools to delay the Highers until 2015/16 due to problems associated with the troubled introduction of the Nationals, meaning pupils will sit the existing Higher instead.

Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the SSTA, warned that many teachers were complaining “bitterly” about lack of clarity and resources for the Nationals, with an estimated 65,000 S4 pupils expected to sit prelims in the coming days.

Mr McKenzie, whose union represents 8,500 teachers, said: “Normally these prelims take place in and around November and December but I’ve been told of some schools holding them as late as April.

“Some teachers are complaining bitterly and there’s much disquiet among them – they’re saying the whole organisation is shambolic.

“There’s a lack of resources, particularly for those in the sciences, and teachers are worried because they genuinely do care about preparing kids for exams.”

Warnings over the Nationals came as Edinburgh City Council said it would allow its schools an extra year before introducing the new Higher exam.

The city’s education leader, Councillor Paul Godzik, said: “A committee decision is still to be taken on this issue, but we are in the process of consultation with curriculum leaders and headteachers and have agreed with secondary schools that the new Highers will be introduced in all schools by session 2015/16.

“Talks are ongoing with schools on readiness of individual departments. From these discussions we are aware that the main issue for departments is the focus on getting the new National qualifications in S4 right, and staff have been working hard on assessment, moderation and verification arrangements.

“We believe some flexibility for the introductions of the new Highers may be required, and we will be bringing a report to the education committee in the near future outlining this fully.”

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said the local authority was continuing to consult with principal teachers over the new Higher and would make a final decision shortly.