Falkirk calls time on study leave
The authority fears that boys simply spend longer on computer games in the three to four weeks they are given off and fail to concentrate on revision.
Councillors were forced to act last week after hearing that senior school attainment was well below national averages and those of councils with similar socio-economic characteristics. A forthcoming HMI inspection is expected to highlight underperformance in the senior school.
The SNP-led authority, however, has delayed implementing the new regime until next year. By then headteachers will have more time to plan accommodation in their schools for the lengthy exam process and for revision areas.
Nigel Fletcher, Falkirk's head of policy and quality assurance, said there will be no study leave for internal exams or prelims for students in S4-S6.
Summer term leave for pupils in S4 will also be ruled out. Instead, they will be on supervised revision.
Only S5 and S6 students will be allowed to retain their traditional leave entitlement before the summer exams.
Mr Fletcher said: "Concern has been growing for some time that young people do not always make the best use of study leave at home in the run-up to their SQA examinations. This relates particularly to boys who may be distracted by other activities and so neglect the systematic study so essential to examination success."
He added: "Given the poor levels of performance in Falkirk Council secondary schools, especially by boys relative to girls of the same age, this is an area that merits serious consideration."
Alex Easton, head of Falkirk High and president of the Headteachers'
Association of Scotland, welcomed the year's delay in making the changes.
Falkirk's school board had discussed the matter but concluded that students used their time well on leave.
Mr Easton believes secondaries will have to plan thoroughly. "The biggest issue for us is simply accommodating the exams. For example, in Standard grade English, we need 12 or 13 rooms and modern languages also needs plenty of space," he said. Multiple levels of exams and the requirement to assist candidates with special needs added to the pressure.
Analysis of results for 2002-03 shows that 25 per cent of pupils in the authority's eight secondaries achieved three or more Highers with A-C passes, against 44 per cent for comparator authorities and 43 per cent nationally.
Numbers passing five or more Highers at A-C are similarly behind. Falkirk's return is 15 per cent against 20 per cent in comparators and 19 per cent nationally.