6. Scottish Diploma of Achievement (SDA)
Q5: What are your views on the idea of a Scottish Diploma of Achievement for all learners in Scotland?
As in the main analysis, many of the respondents welcomed the SDA. Reasons for this included achieving better parity of esteem,, incorporating real life contexts for learning, and collating a wider understanding of young people than their achievements.
"I think it is an excellent proposal and hope that it achieves better parity of esteem, not for awards, but for learners that learn and achieve in different styles and contexts. Our education system is built by those that achieved academically and is designed to benefit those who respond well to academic learning. We need that system for academic learning, but we need that to be part of a broader approach to how we deliver education and value achievement and attainment."
"This is definitely a move in the right direction that incorporates skills and real life contexts for learning. It addresses issues raised in the OECD report and better prepares young people for life after school."
"Pupils feel like it would be a good idea to share information on their wider school experience, talents and skills. This would be positive for future employers to gain an understanding of the young people as a whole rather than simply a record of their academic achievements."
6.1 Perceptions of employers and Further / Higher Education
In the main analysis, many were concerned about whether potential employers and universities would understand the new system and the SDA; and what weight they would place on learners' achievements across the three elements. This finding was reflected in this tranche of responses, with respondents suggesting that the mindset of HE/FE institutions and employers would need to change.
"Having one single diploma will enable learners to capture all their skills and achievements in one place and be formally recognised. Again, the group stated that universities will have to take a more objective stance when assessing the suitability of learners for individual courses. Again, the mindset of further and higher establishments will have to change."
"I think… that we need to be clear on what the purpose of the three parts is. For most young people, their qualifications are a gateway to further and higher education. Would these institutions take into consideration additional achievements when making offers for entry, or would they simply look at the first, subject based part of this qualification?... for employers, I think there is a risk that the Diploma is overly complicated."
As with other aspects of the proposals, respondents had concerns about equality of access to opportunities, and that this could have the effect of entrenching or widening existing inequalities.
"…we do have concerns that all young people may not have the same access to opportunities and options so we need to be clear that this will not further compound the poverty related attainment gap."
"Again, pupils felt that this was positive but questioned the fairness of it without specific plans in place to ensure equity for all."
6.3 Training and workload
Respondents with concerns about the proposal raised the requirement for regular training and robust resources, alongside consideration and mitigation of the workload that this could entail for teachers.
"For me the idea in its current form is too open-ended and ill-defined. Whilst it could potentially provide excellent opportunities to recognise the wider achievements of our young people there would need to be a very robust suite of resources in which to chart these, accompanied by regular training of staff to ensure that delivery of the award is standardised. I am concerned about the hidden workload of this type of project and the challenges pupils and teachers would face to keep track of an entire cohort each year."
Q:5a: If you support this idea, what actions should be taken to make this approach work in practice? What alternative would you propose that would be consistent with the vision and principles identified in Phase One of the Review?
Respondents suggested a range of actions that could be taken to make the approach work in practice. For these responses, they generally divided into practical suggestions, and the change in culture that is required.
6.4 Practical suggestions
School respondents suggested a number of actions around planning, training, guidance, and consultation. It was felt that consistency was required across schools to make the proposals work; and that clarity of what was being proposed, what workload this would entail, and how this would be supported, would all be required.
"Planning and timescales need to be clear, well thought out and realistic.
Skills need to be quantifiable and measurable. This also needs to be the focus and it must be given time to be implemented and evaluated..."
"Significant training required by staff to deliver this. There needs to a consistent approach in all schools in Scotland. Within the BGE the benchmarks are open to interpretation by some schools to what constitutes a level 3 or level 4. There can be no such ambiguity in the Senior phase this impacts on learners employment prospects, college and university places."
"Far more guidance, clarity and consultation on draft proposals. Working groups of subject specialists and school management with experience of success in delivery need to be involved in consultation, planning and delivery."
"Our staff had many questions about the detail of implementation, the time for staff engagement and learning and how the measures of success will need to change in the light of this."
A common theme in these responses was a suggestion for the new model to be rolled out in stages, in order to provide time and space to address any problems, and potentially to test approaches.
"For this proposal to be a success, the implementation should be considered and thoroughly tested before being rolled out to the nation. Trial periods within: single schools; then neighbourhoods; then regions, should be run to ensure rigour of implementation, quality of delivery and reduction of additional workload on teachers."
"A move to 2 years of assessment instead of 3 years could be introduced in advance of the introduction of new cross-curricular experience. This would give schools and teachers time to explore solutions to the potential problems outlined above in rearranging the curriculum."
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