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!

pointydog Mon 06-Jun-11 17:02:32

'Number of Subjects Available to S4 Pupils' Please read!

ecogan Mon 06-Jun-11 17:15:14

Lots of aspects of CfE are really good. Unfortunately the assessment and course choice elements aren't in that category. The worst of comes under the 'unforseen consequences' category which will see the number of subjects reduced to 5 because the time of the course has been reduced from 2 years to 1 year. That means maths, english and 3 other subjects and the option to choose from a maximum of 5 at higher. if you go straight to higher over 2 years the qualifications gained count for less in University applications. It also means kids will be sitting their first ever exam at higher, dealing with that stress and worries about what happens if they fail all together. Apparently everyone (apart from the SSTA) is really happy about the way the new curriculum will operate. I'm glad my kids are passed that stage and my granddaughter will be a long time reaching it.
There is NO rule about the number of subjects to be taken so if your local school decides to start in S3 then pupils could do 8 subjects and a general education too.

pointydog Mon 06-Jun-11 17:19:09

When was it decided that it had to be a broad education for three full years?

darleneoconnor Mon 06-Jun-11 18:08:48

On a link from that sqa site it looks as if there will be A LOT of variation between schools as to subject number/choice. Are Angus schools aiming low because some of their schools are notorious for low levels of academic achievement?

PurpleFrog Mon 06-Jun-11 18:42:15

They have just reported on some of this on Reporting Scotland tonight - the fact that there is a shake up to exams and that 2 year higher courses will be possible in future. They also wondered how Universities will look at this....

AngusOg Mon 06-Jun-11 18:44:45

They have just reported on some of this on Reporting Scotland tonight - the fact that there is a shake up to exams and that 2 year higher courses will be possible in future. They also wondered how Universities will look at this....

LOL! Should we bill them for doing their job for them? seriously, that is good they finally said something - maybe we will get the debate on this that should have happened a year or so ago.

pointydog Mon 06-Jun-11 19:26:26

I saw that. Shame they didn't pick up on the fact that councils seem to be going for 5 subjects only.

PurpleFrog Mon 06-Jun-11 19:27:02

Does anyone remember the last time the Scottish exam system was changed? Didn't some schools decide nearer the time that there was no way that they could develop the new courses in time, so they ended up running both exam systems side-by-side for a year? Can any secondary teachers confirm this?

I have a horror that something similar will happen this time, but it will be impossible for dd's school to fall back to the Standard Grade syllabus in the time available.....

Annunziata Mon 06-Jun-11 19:50:19

(disclaimer: not a teacher!)

Do you mean O-levels to Highers in the 80s/90s, Purple Frog? Took about ten years if I remember correctly!

I too am dreading this.

pointydog Mon 06-Jun-11 19:53:15

O gRades to Standard Grades probably. But I had no experience of that

Fuctifano Mon 06-Jun-11 20:44:11

Some pilot schools ran some of standard grades in 1989, then English, Maths and some practical subjects rolled out nationwide in 1990 - the year I sat. All subjects were Standard Grade by 1991, the year that Highers were revised ,yep my year! So I had a combination of Standard Grades and O Grades, traditional and Revised Highers. As the product of a time of transition in education I worry for my DDs, Standard Grade was launched as "certification for all" and this was jumped upon as "having a certificate to say you are stupid".

pointydog Mon 06-Jun-11 20:55:24

This is one of the t hings I don't get. Standard grades were formed in such a way that the less academic students still left with recognised qualifications. And students currently have the opportunity to repeat highers in 6th year, thus taking two years to achieve them.

So what does CfE offer that is better in terms of qualifications?

The less academic students will leave with internally marked course work and maybe an exam (I dunno though). The Nat 4s.
Some students will do better and get an externally marked Nat 5 in possibly a maximum of 5 subjects and a lot of it will be (probably) internally marked course work. Not sure how that's preferable to the status quo.
The academic ones will narrow down to five or six subjects in 4th year and take two years to sit highers. Will they be tougher exams to take account of the two year lead-in? Will unis want more than 5? We don't know.

It is all very unclear.

pointydog Mon 06-Jun-11 20:56:52

At the moment, I cannot see how this benefits the least academic students and the most academic. It all seems very middling.

Jacaqueen Mon 06-Jun-11 22:19:14

My son is about to start S3 so will thankfully still sit Standard Grades at the end of S4.

I am on the Parent Council and the Rector has been discussing CofE with us for the past year. He has held meetings with the parents/students about to start in S1 and those about to begin S2.

As I understand it (which may be wrong):

Our students will make certain choices at the end of S1! They will study up to 8 subjects over 2 years. They will then be able to take up to 6 Highers starting in S4. If universaties continue to insist on Highers being taken in one year, this will be re-addressed.

pointydog Mon 06-Jun-11 22:39:58

And are any parents concerned about this?

Can I ask your LA, jaca?

pointydog Mon 06-Jun-11 22:41:11

Although what really matters is, are any S1 parents concerned about this because let's face it, parents of S2 and above really couldn't care that much so their opinion shouldn't count for nearly as much.

mustdash Mon 06-Jun-11 23:07:36

I've asked the school DD1 will be starting, what their plans are, in case it is not a council wide decision, but a school one. I can't see how the "joint" decision some have mentioned, could work in practise, unless it is a "if they are likely to achieve x,y, or z, they can sit a,b, or c number of assessments. I have asked for a response before the new parents meeting next week, so it will be interesting to see if they bother.

I'm concerned that schools might think that parents would believe they could be in any sort of retrospective conversation with universities about what grades, and what time frame they might find acceptable. The Unis hold all the cards here surely?

I saw on the Parent Councils group website that they thought people were less concerned about CfE for Primary than Secondary. I have to admit, so far, I am very happy with the changes CfE has brought to my DCs primary, but to think that all the changes could be considered as one is surely missing the point.

I missed the piece on Reporting Scotland, but will see if it is on IPlayer tomorrow.

Another bottle of red bites the dust.....

Jacaqueen Tue 07-Jun-11 08:18:05

I am not sure if the majority of parents are informed enough to realise the potentential ramifications of this change.

Personally I am horrified as I do have younger children who will be going through the new system eventually.

My eldest child had enough problems making choices in S2. Having said that they will have to take one Modern Langauge, at least one science and one social science for 3 years. At the moment they can drop a language after 2.

I am uneasy to say the least about this attitude of just lets wait and see how the universaties react to the change. The thought that a child could leave after S4 with no formal qualifactions takes us back to pre war times.

Our school will have exams in S3 and S4 to prepare the students for Highers.

I am in Falkirk area. As far as I am aware it is up to each school to decide how they wish to proceed. Our Head appears to be on the ball and has consulted and taken on board the concerns given by the Parent Council.

kiery Tue 07-Jun-11 10:00:07

I live in Angus and there has been meetings about the Curriculum for Excellence as my husband has been to them. I think the problem lies in the fact that they haven't finalised what will be acutally happening at secondary school level.

Both my dd are in Primary school at the moment and I'm quite happy with the Curriculum for Excellence in the primary school they attend.

mustdash: Its interesting to read your experience; At my secondary school, in Angus in the 90's, I sat only 7 standard/o grades (A mixture as it was during the change over) and went on to sit the subsequent 5 highers (no crash courses; we were only allowed to do this with Biology). The most CSYS anyone sat was 3 and that was rare. I sat 2.

That year, a lot of pupils went on to University a fair number to the sought after professions too.

mustdash Tue 07-Jun-11 11:31:08

Kiery, perhaps your husband could be so kind as to confirm if what I have heard is actually true. Is Angus limiting the number of National 4/5s which the children will study from S3 to 5. Is there a blanket figure for Angus, or is each school choosing their own, or is there even flexibility within that.

I too, have few concerns about CfE in Primary, and I think have said that. I believe it brings many many positive things to Primary education in general, and the early years at Secondary.

My concern is for the limitations being imposed on the breadth of choice available to the children from S3, and assessment.

mustdash Tue 07-Jun-11 11:47:12

OK, so I've just watched last night's piece on Reporting Scotland on the I-Player. From that I think anyone not paying attention to it could easily come away with the impression that the new Higher, over 2 years might be sat in S6.

It almost looks like S4 assessment just ceases to exist. I'm not at all sure where this would leave the less academically able children. Never mind those children not yet able to be confident in their future uni or employment choices post S6.

I really can't decide whether to just calm down, back off and go with the flow, or pursue this madness.

kiery Tue 07-Jun-11 13:06:11

Yes you are right. Angus council stated that 5 subjects would be chosen at the end of S3.

Highers were not mentioned.

They also said that language, numeracy and health and well being (?) were going to be the priority.

We, perhaps naively, assumed that this was blanket over all of Scotland.

If it does pan out like that then perhaps my dds will have time to become muscial or sport prodigies in all their spare time as they will only be doing 5 subjects; at least it will stand them in good stead for their UCAS forms (if they still exist by then!)

PurpleFrog Tue 07-Jun-11 13:24:41

mustdash - I know what you mean. I can't decide whether to just sit back and wait and see what happens, or panic and pull dd out of her current school and pack her off to the local independent! Well... that is a slight exaggeration, but I keep yo-yoing somewhere between these two extremes. confused

To make matters worse, dd's dream is to be a vet - a course which is already very difficult to get into. I don't want her to be disadvantaged because she was a guinea pig for the new CfE exams.

But then, realistically, she has only had 1 year of secondary school. She may yet decide she could not face doing any more Chemistry after S3, or develop a previously unrecognised passion for Ancient History! grin

mustdash Tue 07-Jun-11 14:30:49

Yup, DD1 is torn between playing in the Black Dyke Band, being a vet, or being a writer. grin I love it that she has such a broad range of interests (though think it's fairly typical for that age), and would of course support whatever necessary outside school time. Many parents couldn't or wouldn't though.

If all councils were committed to going with 5, it might be less of an issue for me. If there is scope to go as far as 8, some undoubtedly will, and those educated in areas like Angus who have allowed 5 will surely be disadvantaged.

Perhaps by the time she is in S6 though, all universities may be like AC Graylings new uni, and we'll just have to write a cheque. I hope not.

Still no response from the school, though in fairness it has only been one day...

wigglybeezer Tue 07-Jun-11 16:08:38

I have just read loads of info on various websites, including examples from real schools, laying out their plans, the impression I got was that schools will be offerring four or five subject choices, NOT including maths and English. Are you sure this isn't what Angus are doing?

Ps. I couldn't find out what Perth and Kinross ,where DS1 is just finishing S1, are doing.

Wish I hadn't read this thread before going to bed last night!

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