A Glasgow school is giving its senior students two days of intensive revision per subject in a bid to ensure that they get the best grades possible in this exceptional year of Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) assessment.
Students at Castlemilk High School in Glasgow were given three options for the approach that would be taken to assessment following the Easter break, said headteacher Lynn Gibson.
The first option was taking a more laissez-faire approach, which would have meant subject teachers carrying out assessments when they saw fit; the second was creating a timetable of assessments based on when subject teachers expected students to be ready; and the third was "a hot-housing approach" where pupils would spend two days per subject in intensive revision with their teacher and, if the time was right, sit assessments.
The first two approaches would have resulted in several assessments per day, said Ms Gibson, so staff, students and parents opted for the third model, which echoes the approach to revision that the school takes over the Easter holidays.
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Following the Easter break, students were given two weeks to settle back into school and then the three-week revision and assessment window began.
Intensive revision for SQA assessment
Ms Gibson said: “Our young people love that opportunity just to be fully immersed in one classroom with their teacher. These two days take place in a safe nurturing environment where they know they are going to be fully supported.
“It builds their confidence levels and gets them in the right state of mind. Anything they have missed out on we can help them catch up with, and assessment evidence is gathered if there is scope to do so, but, because the assessment window continues until the end of June, there is still time after.”
Ms Gibson stressed that there is “no perfect model” and that the school is doing the best it can, given the “constraints around time” – something that is becoming increasingly controversial this year.
As a result of the post-Christmas Covid-19 lockdown, during which senior secondary students were out of school for the best part of three months, many students are reporting being inundated with assessment as teachers scramble to meet strict guidelines on the kinds of evidence that can be used to support the provisional results they are responsible for.
But this year, unlike in 2020, teachers must base grades on “demonstrated attainment”, with “inferred attainment” – where teachers use their own judgement of the mark a student deserves if, for example, an assessment has not been possible – having been explicitly outlawed by exam body the SQA.
The general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA), Seamus Searson, is calling for a change in approach so that teachers are not tying themselves in knots gathering evidence and are given the flexibility to make sure students get the grades they deserve.
Others have made a similar argument, saying there needs to be a better balance struck this year between inferred and demonstrated attainment.