Qualifications – A Personal Perspective

The Scottish Government issued A Consultation on the Next Generation of National Qualifications in Scotland on the 10th June 2008. The authority will be making formal response before the closing date of the 31st October 2008.

I thought it might be useful to try to work out my own perspective on the questions. In a future post I’ll consider how these responses might be reflected in a school curriculum.

Q1. Do you welcome the intention to update all qualifications at Access, Higher and Advanced Higher in line with Curriculum for Excellence? Please comment on any implications to be considered.

It seems sensible to update all qualifications to reflect A Curriculum for Excellence

Q2. Early consultation has identified the ‘best’ features of Standard Grade and Intermediate qualifications as:

the ‘inclusive’ approach to certification contained in Standard Grade; and

the ‘unit based’ structure of Intermediate qualifications.

Are there any other features in the present Standard Grade and Intermediate qualifications which should be included in the new qualification at SCQF levels 4 and 5?

The new qualification should reflect the ‘unit based’ structure of intermediate qualifications.

Q3. One of the proposals is to grade units. Do you agree that units should be graded A-C rather than pass/fail?

I’d support the grading of units as it would maintain motivation throughout the course and give feedback to students on progress.

Q4. Do you want graded units to count towards the final award?

I believe the grading of units should contribute to the overall award.

Q5. Which option for introducing compensatory arrangements would you most support?

Please tick one option or suggest an alternative.

Option A Extend the range of grading in course awards to grade E.

Option B Recognise unit passes only.

Option C Compensatory award at the level of the course studied with no grade awarded.

Option D Compensatory grade C award at the level of course below that studied.

Option E Compensatory grade A award at the level of course below that studied.√

Q7. Do you agree with the proposal to offer literacy and numeracy awards at a range of SCQF levels (3 to 5)? If not please offer an alternative.

I agree with the proposal – for students following a more vocational programme of study such an option would be welcomed by employers.

Q8. National Qualifications at Access 3 (SCQF level 3) do not have an external examination. Do you agree that any new awards in literacy and numeracy at SCQF level 3 should have an external examination?

I’d like to see an external examination for literacy and numeracy for all S3 students

Q9. Should the weighting between the internal and external assessments for the literacy and numeracy awards be equal? If not should more weight be attached to the internal or external assessment? Please explain.

Difficult one! I’d go for more external weighting as it would enhance the credibility of the qualification.

Q10. When should young people be assessed for literacy and numeracy awards? Please tick one option.

Option A At the end of S3 as part of the summer diet of examinations.√

Option B In the December of S4 as part of a winter diet of examinations.

Option C At the end of S4 as part of the summer diet of examinations.

Q11. Do you agree with the proposal to allow the study of Highers and Advanced Highers over 12 months, 18 months and 2 years?

The more flexibility we can give individual students over the length of study the better.

Q12. Do you agree with the proposal to introduce a winter diet of examinations?


Q13. If you agree with the proposal to introduce a winter diet of examinations, what subjects and levels of qualifications might first be offered?

Numeracy and Literacy.

Q14. Would you agree with changes to the system which allowed the most able students to bypass qualifications at lower levels and begin study for Highers from S4 onwards?

Totally agree with this proposal. This would enable the two year Higher course to become a reality from S4. Some students may be able to sit some highers after one year thereby allowing a two year Advanced Higher course.

Q15. Do you have any other ideas for increasing flexibility within the senior phase (S4 to S6)?

I would promote the possibility of students choosing to follow some courses within a virtual learning environment.

Q16. It is intended that planning for the new curriculum should commence in 2008/09, with approaches based on the new curriculum introduced from school year 2009/10. This suggests that the new and revised qualifications and any increased flexibilities would be required from 2012/13 onwards to ensure smooth progression between the curriculum and qualifications. Is this indicative timeline realistic? Please comment on any implications to be considered.

This timeline is demanding but some key elements of the new qualifications should be in place by that time – especially Numeracy and Literacy. I don’t see the need to compromise the potential of new curriculum by having to rush through if we aren’t ready. What all schools should have in place by that time is a curricular structure which is able to deliver the new qualifications by 2012.


3 thoughts on “Qualifications – A Personal Perspective

  1. What a cracking summary of the issues in the document and it’s very refreshing to see a director who is willing to share their personal opinions and feedback with their audience. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Don. I think the consultation is going to throw up debate outwith the questions they pose. For example, many secondary staff will question the wisdom of another year of a common course with unwilling conscripts in their subjects already in S2. What evidence do we have that a broader base (not a bad idea in itself per se) will benefit pupils? I still see over-assessment bedevilling the education system at the expense of learning and teaching – why are we not discussing only internal assessment with one external examination at the time you decide to leave school? Did you see the TESS article on schools with early presentation benefitting pupils – I think early presentation is frowned on because it compromises the move to a broad course until the end of S3. I’d certainly want the move to a longer period of study for Higher. If I’m a strong-willed pupil, can I sit my Higher exam at the end of S4, then at the winter diet, then at the end of S5?

  3. Ronnie

    I agree that there’s much to dicuss here. As I mention in the post I’m working on a possible curricular scenario with a view to throwing up some of these issues into sharper relief.

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