Scotland ‘not a corrupt society’ and can rely on teachers to deliver accurate grades, academic claims

Scotland is “not a corrupt society” and has a “strong, professional” teaching workforce that could be relied upon to assess accurate grades, an academic has told MSPs.

Professor Gordon Stobart, who was appointed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to consider global assessment models to compare to the Scottish system, told MSPs on Holyrood’s education committee on Wednesday that teachers could be hesitant and might “need convincing” to change to a more continuous assessment-based approach for senior level exams.

He also said vocational subjects should be given the same respect as academic qualifications in the UK, as they are in countries such as Norway.

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Prof Stobart told the education committee: "There are cultural changes that would be needed and we would need to convince teachers – and parents, but teachers particularly – that this isn’t going to be huge amount of extra coursework, it would be more continuous day-to-day assessment.

Prof Stobart said teachers should be relied upon to assess students

"I think we would need a shift there and you’re better placed than I am as to how we would get that change of attitude.”

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In response to a question about the validity of teacher assessments, which were used more during the past two years when the traditional exams diet was disrupted by the pandemic, Prof Stobart said: “There are cultures in which I would say you can't rely on teacher assessment, because there would be sufficient corruption in the system, pressure on teachers and the like to award [grades].

"That happens in various countries and certainly the ex-Soviet countries have had to really deal with that, that these were corrupt systems of assessment and entry to university, so they have introduced exams, very standardised exams.

“I don't put the Scottish culture in that position. I think it has a strong professional workforce and it's not, in that sense, a corrupt society.”

Prof Stobart added: “Scottish teachers are skilled professionals they're they're asked to assess throughout the school. We trust our university lecturers and our further education [lecturers].

"It's a system that has a large degree of trust in it and professional recognition and professional qualifications, so I'm comfortable in that way.”

The report, Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence Into the Future, recommended scrapping the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and reforming Education Scotland and the Scottish assessment system.

The exams body is to be broken up and replaced, with pupils, parents and teachers to be consulted on changes, while responsibility for school inspections will be split off to a new independent system.

Prof Stobart said the Scottish system could look to the US and Canadian models, which take into account performance throughout the year, where assessment is only part of the selection process for further education.

He said: “The British traditions rely very heavily on ‘what grades did you get in the exam?’ The American system has more room for teacher assessment, but puts other checks and balances in there.”

He warned there needed to be a “mindset change” when it came to vocational qualifications and routes to further education.

Prof Stobart told MSPs: “Scottish culture is changing. The diversity of your students, your students have broader interests than perhaps they have 50 years ago. How do we successfully engage and cater for them would be my concern.”

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