Russell: 'No limitation' on subjects pupils take

11th March 2011 at 00:00
Children will not be restricted to studying five subjects in S4

Education Secretary Michael Russell has attempted to reassure parents that pupils will not be confined to studying only five subjects in S4 as a result of curriculum changes.

There will be "no limitation" on the number of subjects pupils can take forward from S4, Mr Russell told TESS, after visiting Bathgate Academy in West Lothian, one of the schools whose plans for the senior phase under Curriculum for Excellence were published last week.

Concerns about restrictions on subject choices - and the knock-on effects on university applications - were raised last year by the parent council at Banchory Academy in Aberdeenshire.

Parents of current S1 pupils (the first cohort to sit the new National qualifications in 2013-14) said they had been told their children could choose only five subjects in S4, prompting fears that non-core subjects would be marginalised and their children disadvantaged if applying for sought-after higher education courses.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, warned that, with schools responsible for their own curriculum planning, pupils could end up in a postcode lottery of how many, and which, subjects they could take in the senior phase.

The concerns, first revealed in TESS, led to the Education Secretary facing questions in the Scottish Parliament.

But Mr Russell has now insisted that the problems at Banchory Academy were ones of "communication within the school and the school community" and claimed that the issue had been "put to bed".

That outcome, however, had not been communicated to Louise Christophersen, chair of Banchory Academy parent council, who said this week that parents were still awaiting guidance on the issue from Aberdeenshire Council. If Mr Russell's suggestion was correct, they would be "delighted to hear that", she said.

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said it would not "impose any additional constraints on any school".

But the vast majority of schools and authorities have still to decide how they will organise the senior phase.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said his organisation was concerned that "we are getting very mixed messages as to the options available and how schools and local authorities are dealing with it".

Mr Russell said: "There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in Curriculum for Excellence that limits that choice. Indeed, as one can see from the exemplars that have been published, it is quite the reverse."

www.ltscotland.org.ukbuildingyourcurriculumcurriculumplanningcreatingap lancurriculum plansseniorphase.asp

julia.belgutay@tes.co.uk

THE BANCHORY EXPERIENCE

- December 2010: parents at Banchory Academy in Aberdeenshire protest against plans to restrict the current S1 year group to a maximum of five subjects when they reach S4;

- a number of parents say they are considering moving their children from the academy to the independent Robert Gordon's College;

- January 2011: Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MSP Mike Rumbles raises the issue with Education Secretary Michael Russell in Parliament;

- March 2011: Mike Rumbles tells TESS he accepts there is "not the limitation that people thought there was".

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