Last week, the head of Scotland’s exam body described the timeframe for the scrapping of unit assessments as “extremely, extremely aggressive”.
Education secretary John Swinney had announced in September that the mandatory unit assessments at National 5 and Higher would be axed in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively, to tackle teacher workload and address concerns about pressure on pupils.
However, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) chief executive Janet Brown (pictured, right) told headteachers gathered for the School Leaders Scotland annual conference that the revisions were not simple and the timetable to introduce them was unlikely to go down well with schools.
By January, she said she hoped the SQA would be ready to share with teachers “a high-level summary of changes” to subjects, given that some might have a new exam or piece of coursework, depending on what had historically been covered by unit assessments.
Then, by April, the goal was to make a revised version of the mandatory section of the course arrangements available. Schools would be informed about any new coursework by August/September, she said. Any new or revised question papers would be published by September, she added.
Dr Brown continued: “That timeline is not something I’m sure you’re going to be very happy with, but it’s the timeline we have to work to because we cannot do it any quicker.
“You can ask me why there’s such a long time between April and September, and I will reply that we have to run the diet as well during the course of this period, and it’s absolutely essential that candidates get what they deserve in the 2017 qualifications cycle.
“It’s not going to be an easy year for any of us but, together, I think we’ll do the right things for the kids, as we always do.” Henry Hepburn