Scottish Secondary - Please help. New National 4/5 how many will your council allow?

(299 Posts)
mustdash Fri 03-Jun-11 09:49:38

Sorry this is long, but please help if you can.

I expect you'll only know the answer to this if you are a secondary teacher, or have a child currently in S1 or P7. I'll ask anyway, in the hope of getting enough answers to get some idea about how screwed children in Angus are going to be, compared to the rest of Scotland, if not the whole UK.

I discovered yesterday that for the new CfE National 4/5s Angus are only going to permit 5 subjects. I believe that nationally councils are allowed to chose a number between 5 and 8, and that the number they chose will apply to all state schools in their burgh.

I am seriously concerned that if children in Angus can only chose 5 subjects they will be badly disadvantaged in the future career or education market, and feel that S3 is far too young to be narrowing down such serious choices.

My thoughts, still a little random and ill informed are these;-

- one of the main benefits of the "old' Scottish system was that having Highers before CSYS/Advanced Higher/A level was that it gave a broader education, and allowed children the opportunity to go into subjects in some depth before committing to final secondary year or uni. We are now asking children to make these choices 2 years earlier.

- if you chose a subject at the end of S3, and later discover you don't want to/aren't capable of taking it any further, you are already cutting down your Higher options. (Personal experience here, loved O grade Physics, hated hated Higher, and dropped it - fortunately I was lucky enough to be able to pick up a crash higher in another subject)

- academic children will be forced to drop arts subjects in S3, since they won't have the scope to do eg 3 sciences, and music/art.

- fewer children doing "minority" subjects like eg art or music will mean fewer teachers and resources...and that our children will face a narrow and restrictive curriculum - the opposite of what I thought CfE was supposed to achieve. hmm

- Angus council have apparently stated that 5 subjects is sufficient because
a) that's what all the other councils are doing hmm
and
b) five is the average number of standard/o grade type subject currently being sat by pupils at the end of S4. hmm

Though they clearly have no grasp of how averages work, and seem to think that it is acceptable to apply a lowest common denominator approach to the whole system, I can't believe it is the same everywhere.

Can you please tell me how many subjects your council will be allowing for the current S1/P7 children onwards?

Sorry this is so long, and thanks for reading this far! grin Any other random thoughts very welcome!

AngusOg Sun 05-Jun-11 10:09:14

"universities shouldn't be dictating qualifications to schools"

They don't. But they do - and rightly so - have exam requirements for entry which show the prospective undergraduate has reached a sufficient, rigorous academic standard and has the intellect to cope with the course applied for. It is no skin off a university's nose which part of the globe their students hail from.

I have never seen anything as vacuous as the proposals for CfE - there is absolutely no indication of academic rigour: no summative assessment grades, no expectation of what an average pupil should be achieving, nothing. Merely a collection of subjective 'I can' statements that can only vary in the bar for success from school to school. It reads as an attempt to completely dumb down the young of a country. It is not a curriculum, it is a wish-list.

Did you happen to read the recent, leaked submission paper to McCormack from COSLA? It contains this gem:

Indeed, we would even suggest that the primary role for a teacher should not be to teach children but should be articulated in terms of ensuring the development, well being, and safety of children.

No teacher would disagree that the well-being of children is important, but the primary purpose of a teacher, at any level, is to educate and develop the intellectual capacity of the pupils in their care.

This CfE programme seems to have had its genesis in Australia. It was re-thought very quickly indeed. once it was seen for the fur coat and no knickers mess it was.

One can only hope.

pointydog Sun 05-Jun-11 10:18:28

Angus, I agree with you. And yes, I have read the CoSLA submission.

Unfortunately, the voices that say that the role of education is to educate in an intellectual and academic sense are completely drowned out these days.

AngusOg Sun 05-Jun-11 10:24:31

Frightening, isn't it!

Scotland used to be famous for its education system and the disproportionate numbers of clever people in whatever field the rigorous system it had produced. That's seemingly a claim of the past now and CfE won't bring it back any time soon...

...Unless parents wise up quickly to what is being fobbed on their children by bean counters.

kiery Sun 05-Jun-11 10:51:55

Hi there,

i have a year till my dd1 starts secondary school but this makes for interesting reading.

Does anyone know what is happening to the Highers; are they being replaced then too? Will they still be a one year course?

In the 90's when I went to Edinburgh Uni it was the highers which got you in and not the standard/o grades. I was in the middle of another change over and had a mixture of standard and o grades and remember the teachers moaning/complaining again then.

Obviously you need to pass the standard grades (or equivalent) to get on to most higher grade courses.

Every profession has to adapt though; whether its getting to grips with new treatment methods, regulations, ideologies or discovering a new strain of e.coli. When it concerns the future aspirations of our children it is an emotive subject.

I think most universities would rather have overseas students (especially outside the EU) as they pay more though.

I don't think that going to university is for everyone though and I think that if your child has got the potential they will get there.

pointydog Sun 05-Jun-11 11:14:54

The trouble is, angus, parents haven't a clue what's going on. No one at the high schools is telling them. My dds' high school has told us nothing about the Nationals, nothing about Highers now being a two year course, nothing about only 5 subjects at 4th year.

It is the schools that need to be brave now and make it clear just where this is all going.

pointydog Sun 05-Jun-11 11:16:06

Kiery, highers will just be 'tinkered with' apparently but the big thing is that it will be a two year course, not one year. This is a huge change and no parent has actually been told this.

It is so rubbish, it really is.

AngusOg Sun 05-Jun-11 11:55:08

parents haven't a clue what's going on

Totally agree. Some teachers have been trying to explain why this programme is poorly thought out and what the potential pitfalls are. However, when they do, they are dismissed as moaning / complaining again instead of being seen as professionals whose experiece of education goes beyond that of being a pupil and who just might have something to say that is worth listening to. However, it seems it is the enthusiast for CfE who grab the headlines.

The Highers have an interesting future role and it remains to be seen how the revised versions will be viewed by universities. At the other end of the scale is National 4 (Foundation SG) which will be internally assessed by the school. Who would you take on as an apprentice - the kid with a few foundation level GCSEs, assessed by an exam board against national criteria or the kid with a National 4 certificate, internally assessed from school, stating they can do this, that and the other?

Hopefully, this thread might be picked up by a Scottish media journalist and some constructive public discourse will ensue.

ithaka Sun 05-Jun-11 12:01:28

It is very worrying for parent's whose children are going to be the 'experimental' year - not mine, thank goodness. There is very little information available, most parents I speak to support the teachers' concerns and wanted the implementation delayed. It does not help that it has coincided with all these public sector cuts. It all feels a bit 'Edinburgh tram project' to me.

igggi Sun 05-Jun-11 13:14:29

Kiery, I'm liking the CFE/e coli comparison!
Difference is, when other professionals get to grips with new treatment methods etc it is surely to bring improvements.
Everything happening in Scottish Education at the moment just comes down to money.

mustdash Sun 05-Jun-11 19:57:13

kiery I'm fairly sure you didn't sit Highers in all the subjects you sat O'grades/standards in. That is really my point.

eg we were allowed 7 o'grades (8 if the 8th was art) and 5 highers (6 is the 6th was a third science, done as a crash, but started in 4th yr). We were then allowed 3 or 4 CSYS/A levels, and/or a couple of either additional crash Highers, or picking something back up you'd done at O but hadn't done a Higher in in 5th year.

That way, a broad education was guaranteed, and you could get whatever you needed to get into the uni of your choice. If you changed your mind from teaching to medicine or law or whatever in 5th year, it wasn't insurmountable. If we ask our S3s to make 5 choices, which will leave them with no flexibility, they are stuck on one path, or doomed to fall off it, and fail. The current and next intake of S1s are being used as guinea pigs in an assessment system which no one seems to believe in.

Angus I completely agree when you say that teachers have been dismissed as moaning and complaining again. I'm afraid that is all I have heard, because as far as I have seen, the anti CfE writing has been about the effect it will have on the teachers, and them saying they just haven't had time to prepare for it. I'm not saying that is the truth, but it is all I have seen, and please, please don't think I am not supportive of them in that. Really the focus needs to move to the effect this is going to have on the children - which as far as I have seen so far, has been missed. I think that is the only way you will get more support from parents, and the broader public.

I also read online a letter in the Scotsman from a Chemistry teacher, saying that the only way to get in the 160 hours teaching required, is going to be to start at the beginning of S3. Obviously that was just his opinion, but that would in effect mean choosing options at the end of S2, wouldn't it?

Anyway, one thing I still really don't know, is if the 5 subjects is written in stone anywhere, and published, or if it is just in the COSLA document you mention. Is that available to the public? Do parents need to start badgering their MSPs for answers? Is there anywhere that has said they aim to offer 6, 7 or 8?

If it is all down to money, someone needs to point out to the Dept of Ed (or whatever it is called) that if our children are leaving school without an education, the whole country is down the pan. Mind you, if none of them can get in to uni, then the unis could be filled with overseas and English students, which might make them more money. <<getting increasingly cross bitter and worried emoticon>>.

wine o'clock I think.

pointydog Sun 05-Jun-11 20:02:21

dash, I found something earlier on, on the SQA website. I think it was under the Q&A section. The SQA is not recommending a number of National 5s to sit. No one, in fact, is saying how many National 5s to sit.

It is up to each individual school, according to the SQA. It will be interesting to see what they all decide over the next few months.

pointydog Sun 05-Jun-11 20:02:58

So you need to badger your school and LA if they are the ones making that decision.

pointydog Sun 05-Jun-11 20:04:38

Also, one of the key concepts of CfE is personalisation. Each child being able to achieve their best.

To say that the average student gets 5 or 6 S Grades so we are only offering 5 Nats seems the very opposite of personalisation. It seems to discriminate against the academically able.

AngusOg Sun 05-Jun-11 21:36:58

I completely agree when you say that teachers have been dismissed as moaning and complaining again. I'm afraid that is all I have heard, because as far as I have seen, the anti CfE writing has been about the effect it will have on the teachers, and them saying they just haven't had time to prepare for it.

Oh I totally agree with you about what has been reported so far. The SSTA union has been trying to get a wider discussion going, particularly about how this all affects children's secondary education as they are a union representing secondary teachers. The SSTA were eventually refused participation in the negotations, leaving the EIS and NASWUT at the discussion table. It appears secondary teachers are now leaving the EIS in droves.

but it is all I have seen

Doesn't this say a lot about the media in Scotland - a massive change that affects all children in state schools and no discussion. What happened to investigative journalism?

I think that is the only way you will get more support from parents, and the broader public.

Agree, but it is quite hard to speak out against this, without being seen as some kind of dinosaur against progress instead of someone with the kind of experience and length of teaching service that might be the basis of a solid counter-argument to some aspects of a CfE. Yes, change the curriculum by all means, but have a curriculum - as the word is generally understood in education at all levels in all countries - to take its place.

I also read online a letter in the Scotsman from a Chemistry teacher, saying that the only way to get in the 160 hours teaching required, is going to be to start at the beginning of S3. Obviously that was just his opinion, but that would in effect mean choosing options at the end of S2, wouldn't it?

That's what they do already, options are taken at the end of S2. I think the point he might have been making was that if S3 becomes a further extension of generalist education in S1 - S2, instead of the beginning of more specialist courses leading to exams, there will not be enough time to cover a course that would lead to a national exam equal to SG. Therefore, the base work time for understanding the subject enough to study it at Higher is lost.

Anyway, one thing I still really don't know, is if the 5 subjects is written in stone anywhere, and published, or if it is just in the COSLA document you mention. Is that available to the public? Do parents need to start badgering their MSPs for answers? Is there anywhere that has said they aim to offer 6, 7 or 8?

The COSLA document is here:

www.ssta.org.uk/pdf/Coslaresponse.pdf

If it is all down to money, someone needs to point out to the Dept of Ed (or whatever it is called) that if our children are leaving school without an education, the whole country is down the pan.

It would seem it is. S1 - S3 class sizes are on the increase and it looks like the children of Scotland are to be denied the kind of education that was once the envy of much of the world. I don't think it was our children who invested in the Icelandic banks, if I recall correctly?

<<getting increasingly cross bitter and worried emoticon>>.

That's one we need!

wine o'clock I think.

Mind if I join you?

Annunziata Sun 05-Jun-11 21:37:14

I am glad to find this, we have had no information whatsoever from the school. DD2 is in S1, just about to start S2 and if we compare the work of the previous 4DC to the CfE, it is ridiculous - all "group work" and poster making!

I am very worried about this 5 Nationals thing. So what a child chooses to study at 12/13 defines the rest of their lives? Also, If National 4 is equivalent to Foundation, is Nat 5 equal to General? What happens to Credit levels?

mustdash Sun 05-Jun-11 22:46:47

My dear dear FIL is a former secretary of the SSTA. He's very retired now, so I'm sure won't be into any of this, but he might know who I could talk to.

This really is rubbish.

Angus, I'm almost at the bottom of the bottle now (DH helped honest), there is a drop or two if you'd like though. A Portuguese red - surprisingly nice@

AngusOg Sun 05-Jun-11 23:00:17

Annunziata What happens to Credit levels?

My understanding is that they are absorbed into National 5. These new exams are still in the planning stage, so not a lot of information available as yet.

Mustdash My dear dear FIL is a former secretary of the SSTA. He's very retired now, so I'm sure won't be into any of this, but he might know who I could talk to.

Ooh, that will be an interesting conversation and I bet your FIL knows a lot about the current situation! Would you mind posting the gist of it later? I really would like to know his views.

OP I am sorry for hijacking your thread a bit today but I hope you can forgive me. I'll just go an hoover up Mustdash's leftover drops of wine wink

ithaka Mon 06-Jun-11 08:12:02

In fairness to teachers, I do remember the EIS warning we would create a 'sacrifice' generation if the implementation of CfE went ahead before the details were finalised, so they really were trying to communicate their concern for their pupils, however no one wanted to listen.

neepsntatties Mon 06-Jun-11 10:22:57

I just left the EIS for the SSTA, I think a lot of teachers are doing the same.

haggisaggis Mon 06-Jun-11 13:00:17

It does all seem so wishy washy. I have a severely dyslexic dd (still at primary). When I ask how she compares to her peers so I can get some idea about how far behind she is, all I get is "we teach to the individual". What help will that be when she tries to get employment on leaving school? As an employer I am afraid I look at qualifications - not whether an individual has achieved their personal targets.
Secondary information is rubbish. I pity the poor teachers who have to persuade us parents that it's all a really good idea.

Annunziata Mon 06-Jun-11 14:30:14

Thank you, Angus. I phoned the school this morning and was told that they should have more information "this time next year" which I suppose is better than nothing but really not good enough- why implement a new curriculum without fully developing the exams for it?!

This is all so worrying, especially when you hear about less and less uni places.

Madsometimes Mon 06-Jun-11 15:22:10

English MNer here. I have been lurking on your thread because I am a great admirer of the Scottish system. You seem to get education right from flexible start dates at school through to free university.

I think I must have misunderstood because posters are saying that students are going to study only 5 subjects from age 14. I have always admired the breadth of the Scottish system, and am pleased that in England our system has incorporated this in the past few years. When I was a girl people only studied 8 GCSEs, whereas now it is common to take 10.

I hope you all get the answers you need. Children in their mid teens should not be expected to specialise. It is far too young. I wonder how many teachers were consulted before introducing this new curriculum? How can maths, English, science, languages, humanities and arts be squeezed into five choices?

PurpleFrog Mon 06-Jun-11 16:46:27

Madsometimes - if I hadn't taken advantage of "flexible start dates at school" my dd would now be in S2 and I would not be watching this thread! Grrr!

To be fair, children will follow a broad curriculum for a year longer than before, but it looks like the number of subjects studied will then be cut more drastically.

One thing we were told by our rector was that programs would be very individual for each child and they could be studying for different levels of exam in different subjects. For example, a very able child could do some highers in S4 along with National 5s.

I have no idea what this will mean for University entry. I do hope they will look at the total selection of qualifications gained and not which year they were obtained in.

pointydog Mon 06-Jun-11 16:58:19

Annunziata and others, parents need to be phoning schools now and requesting an open meeting with the management team to disucss CfE and the new exams. Otherwise parents will be fobbed off until August 2012 and that is when everything will be finalised.

Waiting until summer 2012 is far too long. Nothing can be altered at that late date.

pointydog Mon 06-Jun-11 17:01:38

Here is the SQA web page - called Mythbusters, I love the irony - and it clearly says under the section about How many subjects Will be Taken for Nationals, that schools will decide in consultation with parents how many subjects will be offered.

Get agitating. Especially if Angus Council seem to have already decided.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now