Editor's comment

3rd December 2010 at 00:00

Anyone doing the maths could work out that there simply were not enough hours in the S4 academic year to fit in more than five 120-hour courses (p1). The only way round the problem is for pupils to start studying their chosen courses in S3 - a move which would allow them to increase their subject choices to the current seven or eight. That, however, runs counter to Government guidance that S1-3 should provide all pupils with a broad, general education, free of exam pressure.

It is all very well for the Government to say it is up to individual schools to design their own programmes in consultation with parents and pupils. We now have the evidence that a school - one with a strong record for academic results - has fallen foul of its parent council for following the very template laid down in the Government's own Curriculum for Excellence guidance. Banchory Academy would no doubt satisfy its parent body if it went down the early presentation route favoured by a minority of schools. And that is perhaps why Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, recently pronounced that early presentation was neither "forbidden" nor "wrong". He is, if nothing else, a pragmatist.

But Government bodies must turn their attention urgently to two issues which dog the senior phase of secondary: the range of courses pupils are able to sit and the number of Highers they can do in one sitting - one of the key criteria employed by universities when selecting applicants. At least Banchory Academy has flushed the problem out into the open while there is still time for negotiation. Too many other schools are in danger of leaving it too late for meaningful parental consultation - and that means there is an onus too on the Government to deliver the details of its new qualifications sooner rather than later.

Neil Munro editor of the year (business and professional magazine).

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