Union bid to halt runaway S grade

8th January 1999 at 00:00
THE LATEST criticism of over-hasty exam reform is not about Higher Still but Standard grade. A new course in S grade administration was due to start this summer but detailed arrangements about its content arrived in schools only just before the Christmas holidays.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, whose business education members have raised the issue, has suggested postponement of the administration course to be offered under Higher Still, for which the Standard grade would form a preparation.

The existing S grade in office and information skills was not felt to give pupils sufficient expertise in information technology to cope with the new Higher, which is due to get under way later this year. As a result business teachers originally welcomed the new S grade in administration.

But they now criticise it, according to the SSTA, as "the fastest Standard grade of all time". The working group was set up last March. Arrangements documents came into schools in mid-November but specimen papers did not arrive until mid-December.

Responses to consultation on the proposals are due next Friday (January 15) but there are so far no plans for developing suitable materials. The SSTA says the position is unacceptable since a national agreement specifies that major curriculum development is not part of a teacher's contract and should be carried out by seconded teachers.

Barbara Clark, the union's assistant general secretary, said: "The problem requires to be addressed urgently to ensure that no pupils are disadvantaged either at Standard grade or Higher level. The most obvious solution is to delay implementation of the Higher until the first cohort of S grade administration pupils has completed the course."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Qualifications Authority said: "We have worked hard to develop the new qualification as speedily as possible without sacrificing quality. This S grade has had a faster development period because instead of the arrangements being written by a working group of subject experts they were written by a development officer, a full-time seconded principal teacher."

The SQA also pointed out that it does not provide teaching materials, only arrangement documents and specimen papers.

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