There appears to be a growing momentum building in schools to embrace early presentation of pupils for Standard grade. North Lanarkshire Council led the charge and is now trumpeting its Higher successes, arguing that its elimination of the "two-term dash" has given pupils the space to prepare better for the exams that will decide their post-school destinations.
Other schools which have gone down the same route either presenting S3 pupils for one or two subjects or, in a few cases, all their Standard grades appear to be bullish about results. Highland Council's figures show that 25 per cent of its S3 pupils sat national exams this year an indication of the direction of travel in the secondary sector. Yet the move towards early presentation is by no means universal, and doubts remain whether it is the right policy for all pupils, particularly the less mature or less able.
One headteacher, Brian Cooklin, suggests that A Curriculum for Excellence may offer more flexibility to vary the date of presentation for different pupils. But at this stage, it is unclear how curricular developments will dovetail with assessment indeed, what shape the landscape will assume over the next few years. Although Standard grade still dominates the exam schedule in numerical take-up, it is on the decline and Inter-mediate exams are in the ascendency. In five years, will Standard grade be history?
The Scottish Qualifications Authority is holding consultations on questions such as how the assessment regime, plans for recognising other achievements, and ACfE will fit together. Inevitably, the next few years will bring further evolution. Its foray into online delivery of results was not a success, but notifying candidates of the wrong website address was an embarrassing mistake, not a systems failure. It should not deter the SQA from embracing innovation.