3. Subject studies
Q2: What are your views on the proposals for recognising achievements in subjects/curricular areas?
As indicated in the main analysis, respondents that agreed with the proposals were often most positive about reducing the frequency of exams that learners sit during the Senior Phase. They also agreed with the underlying assumption of the proposals that continual assessment is better for students/teachers in terms of stress (removing the 'two-term dash' prevalent in S4-S6) and that it leads to a better learning environment.
Respondents in this tranche indicated the benefits of the proposal included a move to continual and more varied assessment, less reliance on high stakes exams, and potentially encouraging pupils to stay in education for longer. However, a number of respondents who were positive about the proposal also pointed out the implications for teacher workload .
"A move to reduce emphasis on 'rote' learning and the success (or not) of a year/two year long course being dependent on one exam paper is positive. The proposed move to evidence collection over time and learning being comprised of more varied assessment collection removes the current dependence on achieving a certain grade at a certain time in a certain manner, therefore reducing stress for pupils and establishments. It will also hopefully reduce the time spent on exam preparation/technique/prelims etc., and allow more time to be spent on study which may then be evidenced in other ways."
"We broadly agree with these proposals although these have precipitated a number of questions regarding how assessment information will be gathered and the weighting this will be given in the Scottish Diploma of Achievement. In general, we support the idea of reducing the number of exams young people take and the idea of predominantly taking final qualifications at the end of S5 or S6. Teachers have asked many questions regarding workload and capacity for increased internal or coursework assessment.
3.1 Pupil views
Pupil feedback in school responses indicated that they were positive about the broad focus on achievements, but that its success would depend on its implementation.
"We think everyone's achievements should be recognised and the skills they learn from the subjects they study as well. Allows students to continue with the subjects they enjoy."
"The implementation of the model would require careful consideration to ensure that the pupils were able to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to prepare them for progression into a positive destination."
3.2 Meeting the needs of pupils in different settings
Some respondents indicated the importance of ensuring that the proposals meet the needs of pupils in different settings, including those with complex additional support needs.
"Again, please do not forget those with additional support needs (ASN); too often, guidance caters for those that are able and schools supporting complex learners are left to find their own way."
This was also the case for Gaelic Medium Education (GME), where respondents wanted to ensure parity with English Medium Education (EME).
"There is scope for the subject/curricular area to ensure GME pupils have recognition that they have been educated through the medium of Gaelic. Currently many young people exit the Scottish Education system without any recognition of their learning journey in GME. To ensure parity with EME those who experience GME should be able to access a wide range of subjects in the medium of Gaelic."
3.3 What queries/concerns did schools/colleges have about the proposals?
Respondents in this analysis raised a number of queries and concerns about the proposals, which broadly mirrored that of respondents in the main analysis. Some respondents questioned the use of an exam as an "exit ticket", with concerns noted around performance and what happens if the course is not completed.
"The idea of using an exam as an exit ticket is not effective. In prelim assessments pupils often perform worse as it is their first experience of the exam, making their first experience their final would likely lower results. Also pupils can express a wish in S4 to go on to Higher level but without rigorous assessment it is unclear to teachers whether that is possible for that child."
The main analysis found that a significant minority of schools and colleges favoured the approach of annual external examinations. For some respondents, it was important to retain the parts of the current model in the senior phase that they believe "worked", including external assessment. This was particularly the case for subject teachers who gave examples of how courses in their subject area achieved a balanced of external and continuous assessment.
"Experiences in subject areas has to remain the key focus here. There may be flaws in some of the systems employed, but overwhelmingly we do have programmes of study in schools in the Senior Phase that allow pupils to thrive and achievements to be recognised appropriately. A situation like Covid should not lead to a wide spread thought process that the examination system is deeply flawed. It is not. It generally works well and large parts of the current curricular model in the senior phase should be retained including the methods of assessment which should largely be determined by robust, external assessment be that a final exam or an item such as a project."
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