The Scottish Qualifications Authority has published a series of reports this week, giving unprecedented information about its progress in developing the `next generation' of qualifications. They examine what needs to be done so the new exams dovetail with subject guidance and suggest cross-curricular links. They also report on views of teachers involved in the consultations, and urge secondary teachers to send in their feedback. Elizabeth Buie reports
The expressive arts cover art and design, dance, drama and music but, under Curriculum for Excellence, courses should have a greater emphasis on technology, says the report. Stronger cross-curricular links should be built with languages, through media, and with technologies, to produce common approaches to design.
Having reviewed existing SQA qualifications, the report recommends the development of new qualifications in dance and calls for a revision of the suite of courses in drama to ensure a smoother progression across all levels.
Consultation findings suggest some teachers feel the current progression across levels is disjointed and some skills and competences are missing in lower-level courses. There is a lack of opportunities for formalised progression in dance and, in all the arts, a "heavy content and quantity" of summative assessment.
Health and well-being
Current qualifications are care (health and social); early education and childcare; home economics; philosophy, psychology and sociology; personal development; social and vocational skills; and physical education and sport.
But the SQA is exploring if a new generic health and well-being qualification would be worthwhile. This could include areas such as mental, emotional and social well-being; mental health; physical activity and nutrition for physical well-being; substance misuse; building positive relationships; sexual health, parenting skills; and critical thinking skills.
Teachers who were consulted have delivered mixed messages: some say CfE offers "a great opportunity" to develop a course which is not subject- specific but groups relevant and coherent topics, while others warn that it would be of limited value because parents would perceive it as offering no vertical progression.
A generic "plough to plate" qualification, for use within the food and nutrition curriculum area, has also been mooted. It could include aspects of home economics, sustainable development in food production, and health and nutrition issues usually covered in PE. But the initial response from teachers has been that there is no evidence of demand for such a qualification and the potential content is already embedded in other qualifications. Health and well-being is unusual in that it includes "experiences and outcomes" which are the responsibility of all teachers.
The Curriculum for Excellence: health and well-being principles and practice document, published last year, will provide the starting point for developing qualifications in this area. But there will be links with the expressive arts (through PE and home economics), religious and moral education (philosophy), the sciences (health care), social studies (geography, history, economics and modern studies linking to psychology, sociology and home economicshospitality), and technologies (home economics).
The report recommends a review of the overlaps within National courses, Skills for Work, Project-based National Courses (PBNC) and National Progress Awards, with a view to rationalising provision. It also suggests there is an overlap between home economics and hospitality qualifications.
The reasons for low or declining uptake in existing qualifications, such as personal development and Access 3 provision in fashion and textile technologylifestyle and consumer technology, should be investigated. There also needs to be a greater focus on progression routes into employment; this is particularly an issue in relation to current qualifications in care, says the report.
Classical languages, Gaelic (learners), English, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), Gaidhlig, modern languages and media fall within the languages curriculum.
The SQA recommends a greater emphasis on technology, but also suggests languages should be set in more practical and relevant contexts.
A broad-based languages qualification which offers the option of using more than one language (modern andor classical) in a variety of practical contexts is mooted.
The Scottish Baccalaureate approach to generic and cognitive skills through its interdisciplinary project should inform the development of new qualifications, it adds. Greater consideration should be given to the European Languages Portfolio, a tool to record a learner's achievements, based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Recommendations for new courses include:
- classical languages - should reflect the skills-based nature of individual investigation at Standard grade;
- modern languages - more choice and progression, particularly in skills, content and context;
- classical languages, Gaidhlig and Gaelic - build on the development of cultural awareness elements;
- the assessment of knowledge about language should be done in context;
- in media - address the imbalance between theory and creative production by varying the forms and methods of assessment;
- a common approach to the development of English and Gaidhlig should be considered.
Some teachers suggested the folio requirement in Standard grade English and Gaidhlig was not an appropriate means of assessment. Others said that, although it appeared to go against the teaching and learning approaches promoted by CfE, "rote-learning remains a key part of language learning".
Modern languages teachers called for a common framework to all language learning in the hope this would improve pupils' grammar.
"To ensure rigour and consistency at National 4 and 5, we may need to make the knowledge about language section more explicit," it says.
This area includes classical studies, economics, politics, administration, business management, accounting and travel and tourism, but there should be further research into whether the right provision is being offered, says the report. Courses in geography, history, modern studies and practical cookery should be the basis for development.
Proposed cross-curricular links include health and well-being (in home economics and sociology); technologies (for the information technology aspects of administration) and sciences (for the scientific aspects of geography).
The report suggests the option of new broad courses based on society and health and well-being, and on business, accounting and economics.
It also highlights the need to emphasise the following issues in skills development:
- higher-order cognitive skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation;
- techniques to research, select, extract, interpret and explain social, economic and financial phenomena;
- statistical techniques to process and communicate information;
- collaborative working;
- relevant practical skills for each subject.
Teachers emphasised the need for literacy skills, particularly in essayextended writing at all levels, communication and listening; and numeracy skills, particularly in ratios, percentages and fractions in business, ending over-reliance on calculators in budgeting and other areas.
There is a difference between the purpose of numeracy and the purpose of the mathematics curriculum, states the report.
Numeracy is to develop and apply number skills across a range of contexts relevant to learning, life and work. Maths, in contrast, is "to develop the full range of mathematical skills and concepts, including logical reasoning and algebraic thinking, while fostering a wider appreciation of the application of mathematics".
Teachers supported the idea of developing further maths courses at Levels 4 and 5 of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (Standard grade General and CreditIntermediate 1 and 2). These would concentrate on developing skills particularly valuable to life and work, and might include topics on statistics and financial education.
"They would provide alternative progression within the mathematics curriculum area up to National 5, which would be an exit qualification for this route. The design of these courses could also take cognisance of material contained in the applications units of the current Intermediate qualifications. These courses would have a different title from the mathematics courses which progress to Higher," says the report.
Teachers also want to see greater restriction of calculator use at some points of the maths course to allow development of non-calculator skills.
Computing, technical education, home economics, hospitality and business all come under the umbrella of the technologies.
Qualifications in the broad areas of computing and technical education will mainly build on the CfE principles and practice document, although there will be links with expressive arts, through design and graphics, and with sciences and mathematics, through engineering. Home economics, hospitality and business qualifications will draw on advice from the health and well-being and social studies curriculum areas, as well as the technologies.
Findings suggest a need to:
- investigate the rationale for separate qualifications in computing and information systems;
- investigate possible overlaps between business qualifications and information systems;
- consider changes to computing qualifications to ensure clear progression pathways from computing science "experiences and outcomes";
- rationalise the range of qualifications which progress from the craft, design, engineering and graphics "experiences and outcomes";
- investigate need for technological studies to be redeveloped and rebranded as engineering qualification.
Among the strong messages from teachers were the need to reduce the amount of content to be assessed and the time spent on assessment, and the need for clear guidance on how to assess collaborative working. Although schools wanted assessment to be more holistic, colleges were in favour of competencieschecklist types of assessment.
All science courses should include skills in knowledge and understanding, problem-solving, enquiry, investigation, and analytical thinking.
The current reviews of Higher and Advanced Higher science subjects already build on Curriculum for Excellence principles and practice guidelines. But the report acknowledges that more work will have to be done on developing "scientifically literate citizens" and on connections within and beyond the sciences.
It suggests there should be cross-curricular links with maths, religious and moral education, technologies, social studies (geography), and health and well-being curriculum areas.
"Learning in science can be enhanced through knowledge of classical languages. There are strong connections between learning in English and learning in sciences, involving research, a strong element of presentation, and opportunities to extend language skills," it adds.
Work is recommended on the nature of a practicalexperimental science course, incorporating laboratory science skills, experimental techniques, practical science and skills, and scientific applications. The report calls for a rethink of current biotechnology courses, suggesting the newly-revised Higher biology should include some of their content.
Feedback from teachers suggests little demand for a replacement for Standard grade science, with most arguing that it would not have equal parity of esteem with the discrete sciences.
Religious and moral education will be published next month.
Full reports and Have Your Say at: www.sqa.org.uksqa42180.2631.html.
Original paper headline: Here's what the SQA thinks . now, what do you think?