Money ‘too late’ for this year’s Nationals


It is too late for pupils sitting this year’s new National exams to benefit from an extra £5 million in Scottish government support, according to the country’s biggest teaching union.

The money, to give teachers more time and training, was promised on February 21 as the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) also agreed to changes on the verification process.

However, Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS), told the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee last week that the support should have been given a year ago.

“If a year ago we were where we are now, everybody would be a lot more relaxed,” he said. “The £5 million is very, very welcome, but it’s not going to have a major impact on (children studying) National 4 and National 5 because we’re six weeks away from these qualifications.

“The money is after the fact. We would have appreciated if it was there as part of the planning process.”

Concern has risen over how prepared pupils will be for the new exams, which replace Standard Grades from this spring.

MSPs on the Education Committee were also told about an apparent lack of exam practice papers. The SQA has only made one sample exam available per subject, saying the new system has reduced the need for them, but unions have still called for more to be produced.

Janet Brown, chief executive of the SQA, said: “One of the things that we wanted to do was reduce the number of practice prelims that pupils were trying to go through.” Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is more geared towards coursework, she added.

Learning minister Alasdair Allan admitted this year was “critical” for the new curriculum but said he believed the availability of sample papers was “adequate”.

“I readily accept that change on this scale has represented very considerable work by teachers. But we have never been complacent around the need to support teachers in doing it,” he said. “We already have put in place an unprecedented level of support, both nationally and locally.”

Labour has called for an independent review to be undertaken this summer on the current phase of implementation.

Neil Bibby MSP, a member of the Education Committee, welcomed the extra resources but called for an “urgent action plan to allay any outstanding concerns” before the exams begin.


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