Timetable shift for National assessments

Earlier schedule for materials may be `too little, too late', teacher union warns

Elizabeth Buie

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The Scottish government and Scottish Qualifications Authority have responded to pressure from teachers and brought forward publication dates for assessment information on the new National 2-5 qualifications.

Union representatives gave a cautious welcome, although the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association warned that it was likely to be "too little, too late".

The move was highlighted by education secretary Michael Russell last week, when he told the Scottish Parliament's education committee that not a single Curriculum for Excellence deadline had been missed and that "some things had even been brought forward".

The government confirmed last week that the SQA had been given pound;330,000 to help it deliver three sets of assessment materials earlier than planned.

While delivery had been scheduled for February, April and June in 2013, it will now be October 2012, and February and April 2013.

A government spokesman said: "We have been trying to respond to what teachers say their concerns are and this was something the SQA was able to identify and offer."

The SQA told TESS that its first package of unit assessment support would now be available by the end of October, as opposed to its original February "milestone".

Specimen question papers for National 5 were due to be published on the SQA's website in April 2013, but will now be available in February. Specimen coursework materials will be available by 30 April in a phased release on the SQA website instead of June, as originally envisaged.

An SQA statement said: "Each package of unit assessment will provide practitioners with materials that cover the requirements of the course. It will also provide information on how to gather evidence and make assessment judgements. The materials will be ready to use, but centres will be free to develop their own assessment packages."

Alan McKenzie, deputy general secretary of the SSTA, said his union welcomed anything that helped to mitigate the problems teachers had encountered.

"It's a step in the right direction and at least it shows there is a recognition that things have not moved as quickly as expected," he said.

He feared, however, that it was "too little, too late".

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS union, said: "One of the key concerns is that people want to see the specimen papers, so the earlier they are available, the better, even if it is only a few months of a difference."

The agreement between the EIS and the Scottish government had included a clause that all subject leaders would have access to SQA-led inset sessions, he said.

"If we add these two things together, along with Education Scotland's commitment to coordinate and disseminate the course materials, that is all positive news," said Mr Flanagan.


Deals on materials

Education Scotland is expected to strike agreements with individual local authorities to provide course materials for the new National qualifications, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan told TESS.

The national body would then bring the materials together. It is also expected to validate some existing materials where course content has not changed significantly, he said.

Any costs associated with writing the new course materials would not be deducted from the pound;3.5 million provided by the Scottish government to help secondary schools implement the new qualifications under its agreement with the EIS earlier this year, he added.

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Elizabeth Buie

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