School delivers four maths qualifications in one class

New figures back up claims of an ‘explosion’ in multi-level teaching in Scottish schools, say Conservatives

Emma Seith

The rise of multi-level teaching is putting teachers under intolerable strain, warn Scottish Conservatives

A Scottish school is teaching four maths qualifications – from National 4 to Advanced Higher – in one classroom, it has emerged.

At a time of huge concern about the apparent "explosion" in multi-course teaching in Scottish schools, new figures show that over 100 schools are teaching three qualifications in the same classroom, with a total of 11 delivering four courses in the same class.

The data comes from a freedom of information request made by the Scottish Conservatives to all 32 Scottish councils, which to date has garnered responses from 238 schools  – there are 358 secondaries in Scotland.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson revealed the figures during First Minister’s Questions today, where the education secretary and deputy first minister, John Swinney, was standing in for Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Davidson claimed that the survey proved there had indeed been an “explosion” in multi-level teaching.

Background: Swinney: No proof of ‘explosion’ in multi-level classes

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Last week, giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee, Mr Swinney dismissed claims by the EIS union that it was becoming increasingly common for teachers to be assigned classes where pupils could be pursuing three or four different qualifications.

Fears over multi-level teaching

Mr Swinney said 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”.


Ms Davidson said the increase in multi-level teaching was putting teachers under increasing pressure, leading to intolerable workload and stress and disadvantaging pupils.

She called on Mr Swinney to face up to the challenges in Scotland’s schools, as opposed to denying that they existed.

She said: “The education secretary has said that there is no evidence of the explosion in multi-level teaching that the EIS talks about. Indeed, he says it has been a factor in Scottish education forever.

“Well, we have the evidence because we sent freedom of information requests to all 32 local authorities and we asked them how many combined classes there are in their schools and, of the 238 schools we have got back, 112 have classes where there are three qualification levels being taught in the same classroom, and a further 11 schools where there are four levels being taught, like Inverclyde Academy, where maths is being taught for National 4, National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher all in the same classroom.

“We will give the education secretary all of the evidence that he asks for but the question is will he act on it?”

Mr Swinney said that multi-level teaching had long been a feature of Scottish education and was present when he was at school. He said it was able to be delivered effectively by teachers who were trained to deliver “professionalism of that quality and standard”

He said he recognised that there was a debate to be had over multi-level teaching but you could debate every education topic. He said his focus was on making sure the education system delivered the best outcome for young people.

Mr Swinney said: “I believe fundamentally in empowering the schools in Scotland in deciding how the curriculum should be delivered – that’s what I believe in. That’s what this Parliament supported when it supported Curriculum for Excellence – a flexible curriculum to put power back into our teaching profession to enable them to deliver on behalf of the people of Scotland."

He added: “What we are now seeing in our schools is rising attainment by our young people. We are seeing an improvement in the destinations available for young people. We are seeing a rising number of teachers available to teach in our classrooms – a record level since 2010. And we are seeing rising resources being put into schools, including £750 million from this government being put directly into the hands of schools and local authorities to close the attainment gap.”

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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