National recipe for overwork

23rd March 2012 at 00:00

Chalk-face professionals are waiting anxiously for the April-May launch of the National 4 and 5 course assessment exemplars that will inform their teaching. Will they simply be Intermediate exams reheated with a sprig of parsley on top? If so, what was all the fuss about?

Whatever the case, teachers will cobble togetherrehashwrite from scratch the three units to be taught over the next two years. But how many of them will be burnt out by the additional workload?

Two years of toil and turmoil will not see the end of the CfE workload treadmill. How many teachers realise that they should be preparing to write six, not three, National 45 units over the next three years? In my own history department, three teachers are currently writing one unit each for the two-year course. About 70-80 per cent of the cohort will almost certainly progress to sit the N5 external exam, but what about the others? If they carry on into S5 and study N5 history, can I simply regurgitate the same three units for them? Not according to the N4 history course notes.

You think it's bad now - 2014-15 may turn out to be the perfect storm in terms of workload. In addition to writing three new units for the N4 into N5 cohort, we will be labouring with development work to align our existing Higher history course with the recently-published draft Higher assessment specifications. Has anyone in Education Scotland or the SQA thought about the malign coincidence of these two storm systems?

Why was there felt to be a need to change the Higher? There was no demand from the profession. We are only in the second year of the new Higher history Paper 2 and, in my own department, we have spent around 200 hours writing the course materials and associated skills units. The new Higher is clearly a dumbing down of the "gold standard". If CfE was supposed to bring added challenge and depth, surely we should be making the Highers more, not less, challenging? Or do we not have faith that the 2014-15 cohort will be up to the mark?

Donald Morrison, history teacher for 30 years.

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