The future of Standard grade

5th November 2004 at 00:00
The TES Scotland rightly prides itself on its ability to represent, stimulate and influence educational opinion in Scotland. I am concerned, however, that your front page headline of October 22 ("Curtain set to fall on S grade") was not an entirely fair representation of the facts.

The new information that led to the headline was that an English curriculum and assessment report had just been published which contained recommendations that the GCSE qualification should be internally assessed and should not be regarded as an end-point in itself.

And that was it! There was no new announcement from Peter Peacock. There was no Scottish headteacher comment, no view expressed by a classroom teacher or a head of department, nothing from HMI and no response from the education authorities.

So, the immediate basis for a headline that is almost certain to influence public opinion was irrelevant and premature. A very real danger therefore exists that hugely important issues about which courses are most appropriate for the pupils in our schools could be decided by proxy as a result of the media's insatiable appetite for change.

The leader column commenting on the front page article argued that the "bedding in" of National Qualifications is complete and that the Scottish Executive should now be "emboldened by Tomlinson" to take decisive action against Standard grade.

It might be prudent, however, to pause and consider what headlines might be produced by teachers and school managers if they were asked for their views on this matter. Statements such as those listed below might well feature in their responses: l Schools are happy to mix Standard grade and NQ courses l NQs are still guilty of assessment overload l Frequent NQ changes make curriculum development difficultl Standard grade courses are still strongly preferred by some subjects l Schools return to Standard grades after NQ experiment If there is truth behind even a few of these "headlines", it would suggest that the Tomlinson report should not be used to dispose of Standard grade before its findings have made an impact in its country of origin. Change will undoubtedly come at some stage, but it should not be unnaturally accelerated while significant issues remain to be addressed regarding the wholesale adoption of National Qualifications in S3 and S4.

Mike Elder Seafield Drive East Aberdeen

Our report was not solely a response to the Tomlinson proposals but was also based on the Executive's public statement that pupils should have the option "of sitting exams only when leaving school instead of sitting national exams every year from S4".

This week's raft of educational announcements reinforced that commitment by announcing that a decision would be made about the future of Standard grade by 2007. - Ed

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