Review into subject squeeze in Scotland

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:
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Scotland will hold an independent review into how to improve the last three years of secondary education after concerns were raised about a limiting of subject choices.

Ministers announced the move after Holyrood’s Education Committee had made several recommendations following an inquiry into how many subjects are available. It cited “serious concerns” over a lack of clarity within Scottish education as to who holds overall responsibility for curriculum structure and subject choice.

The committee also criticised Education Scotland, whose remit is to support quality and improvement.

MSPs said Education Scotland was “failing to provide enough support for the continuing implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE)”, which was introduced in 2010.

They added: “The evidence provided to this inquiry by senior leaders from Education Scotland revealed a serious gap in knowledge about the current state of curriculum implementation and the associated challenges facing schools, which was alarming to the committee and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Education secretary John Swinney said the CfE “gives young people the skills and knowledge to achieve their ambitions”. He added: “Learners can now choose from the widest range of qualifications ever ... we must continue to ensure teachers can provide the most appropriate senior phase for their learners.

“We will commission an independent review of the senior phase to help us better understand how the curriculum is being implemented in schools and identify any areas for improvement,” he said.

Earlier, MSPs were told that 76 per cent of parents felt their children could not take all the subjects they wanted because of timetabling clashes. Timetabling restrictions had stopped pupils in more than half of schools from taking more than six subjects in S4, when National 4s and 5s are studied. About two-thirds of 1,000 teachers surveyed by the Education Committee said the range of subjects had narrowed in S5 and S6 and more than 80 per cent said this was the case in S4.

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, said the conclusions of the committee’s latest report were “deeply troubling”. She accused Education Scotland of having “lost control of the CfE”.

Education Committee convener Clare Adamson said: “Our committee found the lack of clear leadership from Education Scotland and the SQA around the curriculum structure has resulted in some narrowing of subject choice.

“This was compounded by a lack of awareness from these bodies, who are charged with supporting Scottish education, about the extent of the problem and their role in leading change.”


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