Half of Glasgow secondary schools are teaching at least three different courses in the same subject to pupils in the same classroom, according to new figures.
However, Glasgow City Council has responded strongly, saying that the figures are misleading because they do not factor in the small size of some classes involved and do not reflect the city’s recent progress in education.
A freedom of information request by the Scottish Conservatives shows 16 of the city’s 30 secondary schools running what have become known as “multi-level classes”, which can see National 4, National 5 and Higher students taught together.
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In some schools, the figures showed up to 19 subjects taught in multi-level classes.
A recent Scottish Parliament inquiry heard that the practice is becoming increasingly common across the country.
Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “These statistics show that in half of Glasgow’s state secondaries, three lots of presentations are being taught in the same class and that, for many cases, this is in core subjects like maths, French and geography.
“Everyone accepts that there are some situations, most especially in small rural schools, where combined classes are essential, but it looks like multi-level teaching is fast becoming the norm.”
Ms Smith said this was “placing additional pressure on teachers, with the potential to undermine educational performance in our classrooms”.
But Maureen McKenna, Glasgow’s executive director of education, said: “Wherever possible, schools timetable classes at one or two levels, but as the academic session progresses the level of qualification that pupils are presented for can change, which then gives the appearance that many different courses are being taught in the same class.
“The data also doesn’t show class sizes. For example, in some cases there were eight or nine pupils in each class.”
She added: “Our teachers work exceptionally hard to maximise young people’s potential and are increasingly more successful with more young people than ever before achieving qualifications which are preparing them very well for life beyond school.”
Earlier this month, it emerged that a Scottish school was teaching four maths qualifications – from National 4 to Advanced Higher – in one classroom.
That came out of freedom of information request made by the Scottish Conservatives to all 32 Scottish councils.
On 6 June, Tory leader Ruth Davidson claimed in the Scottish Parliament that the survey proved there had indeed been an “explosion” in multi-level teaching.
Education secretary John Swinney replied that he had “not seen any data that would allow me to make a judgement about whether there has been an explosion or not, and I don’t think that data exists”.
He also said that multi-level teaching had long been a feature of Scottish education and was present when he was at school.
Last month, Mr Swinney dismissed claims by the EIS teaching union that there has been an “explosion” in multi-level teaching in Scottish schools.