A deep audit turned out to be shallow

At last the "deep audit" is out - the full picture we were promised of where exactly schools and local authorities had got to with preparations for the new National qualifications. Only it's not so full and it contains a number of contradictions.

Overall, there will probably be a sense of relief - if no surprise - that the government agency sees no need to postpone the introduction of the Nationals, relief at least in those schools that were already working well with Curriculum for Excellence and the draft documents for Nationals 4 and 5. But many teachers will feel cheated that the powers-that-be have not really listened to their individual concerns.

Not a single authority or single school requested a delay, we are told, but that's no surprise either. What head of school or head of department wishes to be seen as not coping? Word on the street was that nobody would stick their head above the parapet. In the event, only a handful of schools raised concerns.

What is astonishing in the audit is the lack of detail. There are no figures or authority by authority specifics of where schools really stand. It was always said to be more of a tick-box exercise than a full investigation. Most of the consultation appears to have been through interviews with directors of education and senior managers. How much has been filtered through even principal teachers is not evident.

What is good is the acknowledgement that curriculum planning and structures will evolve progressively. People do not have to implement this tomorrow, and there is a suggestion that those who do - by starting exam courses now rather than taking a year to plan them, for example - are increasing the burden on themselves. The timeline given for that evolution is two years, as pupils will have to sit the first Nationals in 2014, but in truth it will take several years for curriculum structures to evolve into any final form.

What is contradictory is the gap between the statement that progress is generally good, with just some departments needing more support to prepare for the new NQs - and the list of areas where that support is required: sciences, health and well-being, expressive arts, mathematics and technologies; articulation between the experiences and outcomes and the National courses; assessment in some subjects; development of new courses; bi-level teaching . It's hard to think of any area that is not in there.

There is clearly an enormous amount of work still to be done in this "dynamic context", as the report describes it. But finally the government can see just how much that is. If teachers think their load is heavy, the government and Education Scotland are about to discover for themselves what that feels like.

gillian.macdonald@tess.co.uk.

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