Third of authorities not entering pupils for Bacc

12th August 2011 at 01:00
Independent sector enters fewer for the Scottish qualification than last year

A third of Scottish local authorities still do not enter pupils for the Scottish Baccalaureate, figures obtained by TESS reveal.

But while state schools and FE colleges have increased their representation, the independent sector entered fewer pupils for the qualification than last year.

Last year, of only 23 pupils entered for the languages Bacc, 14 were from state schools and nine from the independent sector; in science, 122 were from state schools and 31 from independents.

This year, of the 45 entrants for the languages Bacc and interdisciplinary project (an element that pupils can enter separately without doing the Bacc), 37 were from state schools, seven from independent schools and one from an FE college; in science, the comparable figures were 84, 18 and 47.

Only four independent schools entered pupils for the Bacc this year - Dollar Academy, St Columba's in Kilmacolm, Morrison's Academy in Crieff, and Craigholme in Glasgow. But George Heriot's School in Edinburgh, one of the largest schools in the sector, dropped it.

Alistair Hector, the head of George Heriot's, cited the time-intensive nature of the Bacc, pressure on staff and accommodation, cumbersome administration, concern that assessment was on process rather than outcomes, and its lack of currency and validity in terms of university entry requirements for his decision to withdraw this year.

The qualification, which has three elements - Advanced Highers, Highers and an interdisciplinary project - is intrinsically linked with the availability of Advanced Highers, said Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland.

It was notable, he said, that of the 22 authorities which did present pupils for the Baccalaureate, nearly 14 per cent of them came from East Renfrewshire, a relatively small council area with only seven secondaries.

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said the issues for schools on whether to enter pupils for the Bacc were its relevance and value for pupils.

"What we know about exam qualifications is that this is a kind of currency and if the currency is not top dollar, it has lost its buying power," he said.

Although universities say they recognise the value of the Bacc, and accord half the points value of an Advanced Higher to the interdisciplinary project, none of them makes entry to courses conditional on gaining the qualification.

The review of higher education by the Scottish Government, however, has suggested there is an overlap between sixth-year Advanced Higher courses and first-year university courses, leading to speculation that pupils will be encouraged to go straight to university from S5, or that S6 pupils with Advanced Highers will be allowed to leapfrog the first year of HE.

"If you look at the statistics, you will find that at least 60 per cent of youngsters sitting Advanced Highers already have the qualifications they need to go on for further study," said Mr Stodter.

Ten local authorities did not enter any pupils for the Baccalaureate - East Lothian, South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire, Clackmannanshire, South Ayrshire, Moray, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, East Dunbartonshire and Midlothian.

Elizabeth Buie,

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