The new Higher in physical education and the revised Higher in home economics have not proved to be easy options for senior pupils, figures produced by the Scottish Examination Board have revealed.
Some 60 per cent of S5 candidates and 50 per cent of S6 candidates failed to gain a C pass or above in the second year of the PE Higher, while home economics has a pass rate of just under 50 per cent. The average pass rate across all subjects is close to 70 per cent.
Peter Kimber, SEB depute chief executive, explained that pass rates were considerably lower because of the newness of the subjects and the time taken by teachers and pupils to adjust to the requirements. He was, however, encouraged by the "climbing" pass rate in home economics, now accepted as a university entrance qualification.
"It went through a difficult period after the revised courses were completed, but the pass rate is climbing and it does represent a substantial improvement," he stated.
In her report the board's external examiner says that the number of candidates rose to 518, a 28 per cent increase over the previous year, and that the overall performance improved in the written paper and in the independent study.
Examination techniques were better and candidates responded to specific course objectives.
Nevertheless, the examiner believes the high failure rate indicates "inappropriate presentation".
The second year of the PE Higher has seen no marked improvement in the pass rate, the external examiner's report confirms.
Mr Kimber commented: "Teachers and candidates are finding it difficult to come to grips with the different parts of the course.
"It's not enough just to be good at games. There's a substantial amount of theoretical work to it and they're taking time to adjust."
The examiner notes 3 per cent rise in presentations from 1,889 to 2,692.
But the national average marks for the two components other than performance, "were low so that candidates achieving the national average in all three parts would still not have attained a pass at band C".
The examiner adds: "It was clear that many candidates were presented who were not of an appropriate ability for Higher grade.
"This was reflected in written answers which lacked quality and depth."
The investigation of performance and the analysis of performance were poorly handled.