Standard grade to be axed

21st March 2008 at 00:00
Package of reforms to include literacy and numeracy tests and baccalaureate exams

The government is to abolish Standard grade and Intermediate qualifications, The TESS can reveal.

Fiona Hyslop, the Education and Lifelong Learning Secretary, is believed to have confirmed the move to her Cabinet colleagues.

New qualifications will replace Standard grades at General and Credit levels and Intermediate 1 and 2 (levels 4 and 5 of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework). Standard grade at Foundation level (level 3) would also disappear.

Their replacement will include what are felt to be the best features of the existing courses. They will be unit-based and aimed at those who cannot, or do not wish to, take a given subject at Higher.

There will also be exams in literacy and numeracy for all pupils in the December of S4. The Scottish Qualifications Authority will introduce a winter diet for this.

These plans are likely to win the backing of Labour: Jack McConnell promoted exams in literacy and numeracy when he was First Minister and, in his recent series in The TESS, Peter Peacock, the former education minister, revealed his backing for the scrapping of Standard grade.

Highers could be studied over 18 months from the start of S4 to the December of S5, bringing to an end the much-derided "two-term dash"; but pupils would have the options of taking 12 months or two years.

The SNP Government will press ahead with its commitment to introduce baccalaureate exams in sciences and languages; these would be studied in S5 and S6, spanning Highers, Advanced Highers and an "integrative" project.

This package of changes is likely to spell the end of any national external exams being taken in S3, which was partly a response to the need to find more time for Higher courses. Ms Hyslop wants to see the first three secondary years used for a broad general education, before pupils start selecting their choice of examinable subjects in S4.

Ms Hyslop is aiming for more flexible and personalised learning in a range of qualifications in the upper secondary from S4-S6, which could include schemes like the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.

The Education Secretary accepts that the qualifications landscape in S4-S6 is overcrowded, that young people are over-assessed and that there has to be a better balance between equipping pupils with the skills for passing exams and skills for learning.

Ms Hyslop also appears to have taken on board the criticisms, reported in last week's TESS, that A Curriculum for Excellence lacks leadership. Although she is keen to avoid a "top down imposition", she plans to start a strong political campaign to sell the reforms as fuller implementation nears.

Leader, page 22.

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