Exclusive: Government's bid to reduce workload has made things worse, say teachers

10th March 2017 at 00:03
Two thirds of teachers say key move to reduce workload is piling on more pressure
Teachers predict three more years of 'chaotic change' as a result of the scrapping of unit assessments

Nearly two-thirds of secondary teachers believe the Scottish government’s high-profile decision to scrap unit assessments to reduce workload is actually going to increase their burden and put more pressure on pupils, a survey seen by TESS reveals.

The move was education secretary John Swinney’s big announcement at September’s Scottish Learning Festival, when the government bowed to pressure from the teaching unions and decided to remove mrandatory unit assessments at National 5 and Higher.

But a survey by the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA), which received more than 800 responses in just 48 hours, suggests that 63 per cent of secondary teachers believe the removal of the mandatory units – which in most cases took place three times a year – will actually increase their workload and pupil stress. A further 18 per cent said that there would be no change to their workload.

This is because of the changes that the exam body, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, has made to coursework and examinations to compensate for the change.

TESS revealed last month that 28 out of 42 N5 subjects would have a longer exam in 2017-18 because of the removal of unit assessments, while nine practical subjects would have an exam where previously none existed. The five other subjects had new or increased coursework to contend with.

The SQA insists the changes had to be made “to protect the integrity, breadth and standards of National Courses”.

However, the SSTA has branded the SQA changes unnecessary, saying that workload associated with unit assessments has simply been moved, not removed – and is calling for the government to carry out an urgent review.

The union is also calling for clear guidance on the use of unit assessments in schools, saying that some schools and councils are continuing to insist upon their use, adding to teachers’ and pupils’ workload woes.

Many teachers taking part in the survey commented that unit assessments were still in use so that pupils who failed the final exam had a “safety net” - with others commenting they were expecting "another two- to three-year period of chaotic change".

A Scottish government spokesperson said the removal of formal unit assessments represented “a considerable reduction in workload for teachers and young people” and the government was continuing to work with partners to ensure “the changes are having the anticipated effect”.

This is an edited version of an article in the 10 March edition of TESS. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTESS magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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