School Leaders Scotland, which represents the majority of secondary headteachers, welcomes the announcement on the National qualifications to replace Standard grade and Intermediate awards. The proposed balance of internal and external assessment should deliver appropriate qualifications to meet the needs of pupils, and adults, at this level.
However, we have serious concerns regarding literacy and numeracy. The proposal to gather three pieces of evidence from a range of subject areas is flawed, on grounds of practicality and the likelihood of it delivering robust measures.
For schools facing cuts in staffing and management time, the administrative burden of such an approach is daunting. More importantly, selecting appropriate evidence will be difficult, as non-specialists will be required to do this. Internal assessment by a skilled practitioner in the subject, properly moderated, is one thing; asking a non-specialist teacher to select evidence, which demonstrates any given level of ability, is another. CPD implications are enormous, particularly at a time of financial stringency.
Further, this approach will inevitably result in pupils drafting and redrafting work, which reduces class teaching time. The resulting portfolio will not reflect the normal standard of individual performance but the absolute best which can be achieved, with support unknown and unlikely to be uniform. We suspect that this is not the measure that end users of such a qualification are looking for.
SLS supports the emphasis on literacy and numeracy skills, and accepts the need for robust assessment. However, such assessment is required at an earlier stage of education, in primary school, when it is easier to correct any deficit and to inform future educational progress. In the interests of accountability, a similar approach to assessment should be deployed in both sectors.
A portfolio of evidence is not a robust system of assessment and will cause serious workload issues in secondaries. It should be reviewed.
Carole Ford, president, School Leaders Scotland.