SQA plan for exams overhaul

6th August 2010 at 01:00
Qualifications body calls on teachers to respond to blueprint for radical changes that would ditch subjects with low uptake

Subjects as diverse as Classical Greek, Russian, geology and biotechnology are set to disappear from the exams landscape under proposals set out by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. But new qualifications are suggested in areas such as environmental sciences, engineering and musicianship.

A single "society" course at Access and Intermediate 1Standard grade General level is proposed, embracing classical studies, geography, history and modern studies. Its aim is to prepare pupils for their role in a democratic society. But each subject will continue to be offered discretely from Access to Advanced Higher.

In its development of courses to match Curriculum for Excellence, the SQA has published documents giving an overview of its plans for seven of the eight curriculum areas (religious and moral education is at a later stage of development). Its plans are still at the draft stage and it has invited teachers to respond.

The maths document hints at the SQA's plans for the controversial new numeracy qualification, which the Government wants all pupils to gain. With a working title of "Practical Mathematics National 4 and 5", the new qualification will run in parallel with Mathematics National 4 and 5, which will include the operational skills needed for progression to Higher and Advanced Higher maths.

The practical maths courses will, says the SQA, "develop the operational skills that are immediately useful for life and work" and will be offered to candidates not intending to progress to Higher, but planning to go on to college, work, or training. It is unlikely pupils bypassing the maths National 4 and 5 exams and going straight to study Higher maths in S4 would sit Practical Maths.

The languages document makes no mention of the new literacy qualification, but does propose a new, more generic suite of courses at Access 3 and National 4 levels, offering the skills of language learning; practical and relevant contexts; the opportunity to study more than one language; and a progression pathway into Latin and modern languages.

The document makes clear that Classical Greek and Russian are on the way out: these have had low uptake in recent years. In 2009, there were seven entries at Higher and six at Intermediate 2 for Classical Greek. Only 13 candidates sat Higher Russian in 2009, although the figure rose to 25 this year.

The SQA says: "All qualifications should have sufficient uptake to sustain a meaningful national standard and generate sufficient revenue to recover the cost of development and ongoing maintenance."

The sciences document reveals plans to drop biotechnology at Intermediate 2 and Higher, but says the new biology, chemistry and science courses may include some of its content. The current biology and human biology course will be consolidated into one biology course.

Given the low uptake of geology, the SQA wants to drop it and include aspects in chemistry, physics, science, geography and a new "environmental science" course.

Three main developments are proposed in the technologies area of CfE: the creation of a single, broad-based computing and information science course replacing the current two courses; a design and manufacture course to replace craft and design and product design; and new courses in engineering science in place of technological studies.

"It is likely that a change in name will provide a new and clearer focus for university entrance from a suite of engineering science courses. This may increase uptake in the subject," says the SQA.

Within expressive arts, there are proposals to develop a new qualification in dance at level 5 and revise practical dance at level 6 to ensure smoother progression. The SQA is also investigating the feasibility of developing "additional qualifications in specific musicianship skills" for those wishing to pursue music in higher education.

The health and well-being curriculum proposes consolidation of courses in care and early years education. Hospitality comes under the social studies umbrella and puts a focus on practical cookery and creative cake production.



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