Scotland politics

EIS union warns schools could drop Advanced Highers

Exam room Image copyright PA
Image caption The EIS union says "a lot of schools will just drop the Advanced Higher" if there is no option to delay bringing in the new qualifications

Schools could drop Advanced Higher courses if there is no option to delay bringing in new qualifications, a teaching union has warned.

Unions and teaching bodies were giving evidence to the education committee.

General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) told MSPs teachers were still struggling with workloads.

The Scottish government insisted teachers were getting the right support.

Larry Flanagan from EIS said that unless schools were allowed to delay bringing in the new qualifications they could simply "drop" the Advanced Higher courses.

Figures released by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) showed that almost half of pupils taking Highers would sit the old exam this year.

The ongoing implementation of Curriculum for Excellence reforms has led to concerns over the pressure being put on teachers.

'Unsustainable workloads'

Schools were able to phase in the new Highers but all pupils are due to study for the new qualifications from the 2015/16 school year.

The EIS has called for the Scottish government to allow schools the same option to defer the new Advanced Highers next year amid concerns they will not follow on from the old Higher exams.

Mr Flanagan said: "There is no evidence coming to us from our members that the workload pressures of last year have abated in any real sense and it's in that context that we are concerned that the option around deferring the new Advanced Higher for a further year to articulate with any decisions that were made this year is not being presented.

Image caption The introduction of the new Higher and Advanced Higher follows the replacement of the old Standard Grade exams with National 4 and 5 qualifications last year

"I think the consequence will be, if there is no option around that, that because of these workload pressures, because of the staffing pressures that are on in terms of school timetables, a lot of schools will just drop the Advanced Higher."

He added "To run an Advanced Higher class you're normally looking for between 10 and 20 pupils for a viable class. So Advanced Higher has already been dropped in a whole range of subject areas.

"In Glasgow, kids have to go to university on a Wednesday afternoon to sit some Advanced Highers because they can't get viable classes in the schools.

"The danger here is not that people will push ahead with the Advanced Higher and take on board the workload pressure. I think the danger is that they will turn away from it and Advanced Higher will be marginalised in terms of being on offer in our secondary schools."

Education Secretary Angela Constance insisted that the CfE reforms were "progressing well" with "significant numbers" of pupils taking the new Higher exams.

Ms Constance said teachers were getting the right and very specific support with regards to the new Highers but also the revised Advanced Highers as well.

She added: "The course is quite different in terms of Advanced Highers, it is a far smaller taught component."

"I haven't, as yet, heard a compelling case for a dual running in the Advanced Highers given that the numbers are smaller and that the taught component is much smaller as well."

Additional support

Jane Peckham, from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, told the committee: "It really has to be strongly emphasised that the levels of workload are unsustainable and we cannot keep asking the profession to keep delivering year on year."

"The workload will always be high, because that's the nature of the job, but the evidence that we have at the moment is that more and more is just being piled on without the weeding out of perhaps less important things."

Graeme Logan, strategic director for school years at Education Scotland said "all available support" was being directed towards ensuring a smooth transition between both Higher qualifications and the new Advanced Higher.

He said: "There's a huge amount of additional support going in to look at the progression from existing or new Higher to Advanced Higher. That's where all the energy and all the support is going to look at how the content progresses and compares.

"That is where there's a really clear focus to make sure that young people aren't disadvantaged."

SQA chief executive Dr Janet Brown said lessons had been learned from the introduction of the new national exams last year.

She said: "This year is more manageable. I think the work pressure is still a challenge but I think people know what they're doing, including us."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites