Pupils ‘suffering’ as different courses are taught in same class

Group of students working together at laboratory class. Picture: file
Group of students working together at laboratory class. Picture: file
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Many Scots pupils are not receiving the “education or teaching time” required for their studies in line with official exam body guidelines, teachers have claimed.

The rise in the number of “combined classes” across Scotland where pupils in different years and sitting different exams are taught in the same class could undermine flagship plans to tackle the “attainment gap.”

Teaching unions voiced concerns of an “explosion” in the number of these classes in recent years, but education secretary John Swinney insists they have always been part of the system.

Dozen of letters to Holyrood’s education committee have now emerged setting out concerns.

One states: “I cannot meet the needs of the majority of young people in my class. As such they are not receiving the education or the teaching team allocated by the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority). ”

The letters were submitted to thecommittee, before Mr Swinney clashed with Tory leader Ruth Davidson on the issue at Holyrood last week and branded her complaints a “moanfest”.

Another latter stated: “Options have remained broad at our school by combining levels in many subjects and this has had an impact on the weaker students as they have effectively less taught time. It is not unusual to have classes of N4, N5 and Higher levels combined.”

Others said the practice was now “too common” and that there was “little or no chance of raising attainment or closing attainment gap” as a result.

One teacher even implied combined classes were a ploy to make the SNP government look better, stating: “Increasing pressure to have multi-course teaching at same time to fill a classroom. Again. Pupils getting the short end to make statistics look better.”

More than 100 schools in Scotland have examples where three or more qualifications are taught as part of the same class, MSPs heard last week.

MrSwinney said: “We take any concerns teachers have seriously. Multilevel teaching has long been part of Scottish education and teachers are well-skilled to take account of the needs of their pupils.

“There will be varying levels of prior attainment in any class and I have yet to see any firm evidence of educational disadvantage due to multilevel teaching.

“However, I will of course consider the conclusions of the education and skills committee, on the range of issues it has been exploring, when it reports in due course.”

Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “These letters show there is widespread concern about the number of combined classes across Scotland.”