'Proper exams' for all

2nd July 2010 at 01:00

A headteacher who introduced major curriculum reform, giving his pupils opportunities described by researchers as "second to none in Scotland", has attacked Curriculum for Excellence as lacking ambition and placing some pupils on a "second-class, non-academic, non-examined route".

The new curriculum, due to be introduced in August, does not go far enough, according to Dugald Forbes, headteacher of Kirkcudbright Academy, which has run a "curriculum flexibility" project since 2004. He queried why aspects such as the Higher were being protected, in an address to the Centre for Scottish Public Policy conference.

Mr Forbes also criticised the lack of involvement of universities in the revision of the curriculum. Medical faculties in two of Scotland's ancient universities found Highers taken at more than one sitting unacceptable, his school had discovered, yet this is expected to become more common under CfE.

The decision to rule out early presentation for examinations in S3, other than "in exceptional circumstances", was also a mistake, he said. The success of Kirkcudbright Academy, which allowed pupils to sit their Standard grades in S3, was largely due to "the motivational impact of timely presentation for assessment", claimed Brian Templeton, one of the Glasgow University researchers responsible for evaluating the project.

Mr Forbes also went on the offensive to condemn the move which will restrict external National 5 exams to Credit-level pupils. This would result in some continuing to leave school without a single Higher and sow deeper divisions between the most able and the rest, which would send out the message that "if you're bright, you sit proper exams".

Boys, in particular, would suffer. They needed "validated competition" and rewards that had "status".

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