Parents' leaders call for clarity on exams

24th February 2012 at 00:00
Confusion over Nationals 4 and 5 has to be ironed out

Parents' leaders have called for the main players in Curriculum for Excellence to "knock their heads together" and clear up the uncertainty they feel is bedevilling the roll-out of the new National 4 and 5 exams.

Failure to allay their fears could lead to the parent voice being mobilised, and that in turn could place the whole CfE project at risk, warned Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council.

Parental opposition had "run rings round" the former Conservative Scottish education minister Michael Forsyth's bid to introduce national testing in the 1990s, she pointed out.

"The key players are not all singing from the same hymn-sheet. Parents are getting very confused - they are stuck in the middle of this," she said.

The main parties were currently engaged in a "power play" which left parents feeling as if they were being "tossed around in a storm", she claimed.

Her warning came as the education directors' body ADES, Education Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, the government and the National Parent Forum of Scotland issued a joint statement seeking to reassure parents that CfE is on track (see below). Education directors are to hold a summit on 29 February to try and agree a common position.

There has been huge debate in recent weeks on which structural models schools should adopt, instigated largely by the EIS union. It has also led calls for all schools to have the option of delaying the new exams by a year, following East Renfrewshire's decision not to introduce Nationals 4 and 5 until 2014-15, a year after the official starting date.

Iain Ellis, chair of the national parent forum, has also called for a "clear message and a clear steer" on developments.

"When you read the press, they are all giving you different opinions," he said.

East Renfrewshire's plans for a year's delay had been known for some time, he said. "If someone had made a statement months ago, we would not have had all this," he added.

"Kids are getting anxious because they are seeing all these mixed stories."

Mr Ellis echoed concerns raised by the EIS union that the appeals system is being changed at the same time as the new National 4 and 5 courses are being introduced, potentially leaving pupils without a safety-net.

"I don't think a lot of parents realise the appeals system is changing - it has not been publicised," he said.

Mr Russell told TESS there had been the "widest consultation" on the changes to the appeals system which had been "well flagged up". Nevertheless, he was happy to listen to people who wanted to talk about how the first two years of the new qualifications would be operated.


"ADES, Education Scotland, SQA, the National Parent Forum of Scotland and the Scottish government would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm their support for Curriculum for Excellence and the opportunities it offers to improve outcomes for Scotland's children and young people.

Parents should be reassured that the development of qualifications which reflect the new curriculum is on track and that the new qualifications will be introduced on schedule for the current S2 cohort of pupils in 2013-14.

Schools across the country are making good progress with Curriculum for Excellence and we are confident that parents and professionals will remain focused on meeting the learning needs of children and young people as their top priority."

Photo: Michael Russell sees CfE progress at St Paul the Apostle High, West Dunbartonshire. Credit: Chris Clark

Original headline: Parents' leaders call for clarity on roll-out of exams

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