Results, dear boy, results - as former premier Harold Macmillan might have said. Whatever the grander vision of Curriculum for Excellence, schools are judged largely by their results. Regrettable though this may be for some, it is not just a fetish of right-wing politicians: it is also the chief yardstick for parents and, indeed, teachers. So if some headteachers believe that their results will benefit from pupils being allowed to sit their exams a year early, they should be able to do so in whatever configuration they choose. Michael Russell is, therefore, to be commended for lifting Fiona Hyslop's ludicrous ban (p1).
There is a legitimate objection about the maturity of younger pupils but that could be an issue for some pupils anyway, whether they sit exams in S4 or S3. We are only talking about the difference of a year, after all.
The great prize from this move is that it frees schools to give pupils more time to prepare for their Highers - and pass them. At a time when universities and colleges are going to come under severe twin pressures from funding and applications, anything that gives pupils an advantage must have priority. And with some universities putting on their best academic frown to reject youngsters who have sat their Highers at more than one diet, it is vital that we maximise the opportunity for pupils to collect as many passes as they can at one sitting.
The other issue is about walking the talk. Part of the "grander vision" for CfE is that schools should have more freedom to experiment, providing it does not disadvantage their pupils. That would be no more than rhetoric if we then proceeded to fetter the discretion of headteachers to exercise their judgment on the most important part of their pupils' education.
Neil Munro, editor of the year (business and professional magazine).