School rethinks limiting number of qualifications in fourth year

exams Image copyright PA
Image caption At the moment, Campbeltown pupils are allowed to sit five exams in fourth year

An Argyll secondary school is rethinking its stance on the number of exams it allows fourth year pupils to sit.

Campbeltown Grammar is one of a handful of schools limiting students to five qualifications in fourth year, when the majority study for six or seven.

The school is now considering changing its system after criticism in an Education Scotland report.

A new head teacher has launched a consultation with parents.

Decisions on how many qualifications to offer are taken by individual schools and councils.

However most offer S4 students the chance to study for six or seven.

The new qualifications system started to be introduced across Scotland five years ago, with S4-6 banded together as a "senior phase".

The emphasis is on what qualifications a youngster has by the time they leave school and on their top level of achievement in each subject - not on what they have achieved at the end of each year.

The exact systems vary from area to area.

The largest number of schools offer students the chance to obtain up to six National 4 or 5 qualifications in S4.

A significant number offer seven and a few, often in areas where there is competition from independent schools, offer 8.

New head teacher

Campbeltown Grammar is in the tiny minority of schools which only offer S4 students the chance to obtain five qualifications.

The suggestion that the school's system could change is contained within a consultation with parents being undertaken by the school.

Image copyright Campbeltown Grammar School
Image caption Campbeltown Grammar pupils may be allowed to take more subjects in fourth year in the future

A new head teacher was recently appointed when the school moved into a new building.

In a letter to parents, school head David Fyfe wrote: "Early in the new session you will receive information on proposals for changes to our curriculum structure. Education Scotland highlighted that our pupils would benefit from an increased choice within the curriculum.

"We will be looking at a range of ways in which we might achieve this. One of the options that might be available is to create a 35-period week which would allow 6 columns of choices so that senior phase students could study 6 National qualifications in any one year."

Placing requests

There are arguments for and against all the various combinations.

One particular challenge concerns isolated schools like Campbeltown Grammar. If a parent is unhappy with the system on offer at the school, a placing request to another school may not be practical.

Hermitage Academy in Helensburgh did not initially allow S4 students to routinely obtain qualifications but the system was changed after criticism from parents. Some schools, however, do encourage academically able students to miss out S4 qualifications and spend two years working towards their Highers.