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Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers?

(81 Posts)
madnessdescending Fri 23-Dec-16 12:14:33

We've recently moved to Scotland from England and I'm struggling a bit with understanding the Scottish secondary system.
My older DD has been educated in England, doing 10 GCSEs and then 3 A'levels, which allowed a wide range of subjects, and I think she is coming out if it quite well educated.
My younger DD is in S1 in Scotland. I've been told that she will be allowed to do either 6 or 7 subjects to S4 level, and then will have to reduce that to a maximum of 5 for Highers. Then there is only one year in 6th form, with a small number of either Advanced Highers, and/or further Highers. Then will need to leave school at that stage (a year earlier than in England), to go to Uni.
So as I understand it, she will be dropping to only 6 or 7 subjects very early, and then in the 5th year will be studying a maximum of 5 subjects, at an age when her sister was studying and taking exams in 10 subjects. This presumably means that she will have to make a decision between arts, sciences or humanities very early. I don't see how she will be able to combine these, as is possible in England, or to fit in any "extras", such as music Higher.
I feel pretty sad for her, and have no idea how she will choose to specialise so early. And then of course start her university course a year early too. She is an all rounder, and has no idea which subjects she will decide to drop at such an early stage. How can this result in a good all round education?
Any insights very welcome. At the moment I'm considering teaching her some subjects at home, so that she will have a reasonably wide education despite only being able to study 5 at school.
There is also absolutely no ability setting at her school, and she is finding the work very easy, and is getting almost no homework.

homebythesea Fri 23-Dec-16 13:29:55

I've often wondered this too - have 2 DN'S in Scotland so v interested to hear what the thinking behind this is. The going to Uni so young particularly baffles me!

RebootYourEngine Fri 23-Dec-16 14:03:03

First off children dont need to go to uni straight away or at all.

Having 5 subjects instead of 10 means much less work and much less stress on the young person in my opinion.

If your child knows what they want to do at uni then they will know what subjects that they will need to get into uni.

If your child doesnt know what they want to do at uni maybe they could go to college and do more Highers/Advanced Highers or get a job and save up for uni.

homebythesea Fri 23-Dec-16 17:11:48

Much less work and much less stress maybe....but also arguably a less rounded education than their English/Welsh peers.

Agadooo Fri 23-Dec-16 17:45:55

Yes she'll do 7 in S4 but no reason these cant be a good mix of subjects keeping options wide and then will do up to 5 Highers in S5 if she's very academic and can do more in S6 so still able to keep lots of options open and do H music if she wants to - university entrance qualifications reflect the school exam/subject choice situation.

BirdyBedtime Fri 23-Dec-16 17:54:39

The idea is that they get a Broad General education up to S3 then specialise in S4 for Nationals although the number of subjects is lower. The English and Scottish education systems have been different for years. Many English people who go to Scottish uni's go straight into 2nd year so I think that's evidence that A-levels are more advanced even than advanced Highers. Private school might offer A-levels if that is an option

GreatPointIAgreeWithYouTotally Fri 23-Dec-16 18:04:07

On the plus side, your uni fees will be free, saving £27k wink

I went through the Scottish system and didn't feel disadvantaged, uneducated, or particularly young at Uni. Most of the English students were a year or two older, but it doesn't matter that much as many had come straight from school and didn't seem that old.

I agree the Scottish system is less stressful, which is a good thing.

HamletsSister Fri 23-Dec-16 18:11:50

Also, the first 2 years at a University allow for a range of subjects and are more flexible.

Goldnick Fri 23-Dec-16 18:15:12

How odd! I'm Scottish with children in England and feel they're having to specialise ore and earlier than I ever did! Doing 11 GCSEs compared to my 8 O Grades means she's doing 2 that she'd rather not, then she's going to stoop straight to 3-4 for A level and she will be more limited than owns with my 6 Highers and 4 CSYS. Highers covered wide range of subjects, I could have done anything. Highers get you into uni.

Goldnick Fri 23-Dec-16 18:17:06

Apologies for typos - daft phone! Meant to say my 8 Os and 6 Highers was more than most people but still!

Wellthatsit Fri 23-Dec-16 18:23:19

No, they don't leave school a year earlier. Primary starts later (there is no reception year), and most children are 12 or nearly 12 when they start secondary school.

There have been changes recently that mean the National 5 year (equivalent of GCSEs) is narrower than it used to be. But then the Higher year (not quite equivalent to A Levels) is broader in range. Then those working wish to have something akin to an A level can continue onto advanced Highers in that subject during 6th year. Or can resit failed/poor Highers, or just do some extra subjects (like music).

In some ways it is more flexible. You can leave after 5h year (equivalent t of lower 6th) with a good set of qualifications if you want. You can even go to Uni at that point, but most don't. Most stay for the extra year and do advanced highers.

The four year Scottish degree is in part designed for the days when people did leave at 17. But one good thing about is it also gives a broader education as you have more time to decide where to specialise.

I went to school in Scotland and uni in England, with just a higher in y subject (music). I was a bit behind but caught up very quickly. The English students weren't more advanced than me, just had a little bit more general knowledge of the subject which doesn't go all that far at uni anyway....

ScottishProf Fri 23-Dec-16 19:40:02

Some children do leave school a year earlier, and get a year less schooling. Eg consider a child born in October. This child starts school aged 4 in both systems. In Scotland, this child does P1-7 (7 years of primary school) and S1-6 (6 years of secondary school) - assuming they don't choose to leave after highers but stay on to do advanced highers - making 13 years of school education, starting aged 4, finishing aged 17. In England the same child starts school at the same time and does Reception followed by Y1-13 for a total of 14 years at school. Reception and P1 may not be identical, but the between-schools differences in either country are larger than the between-country differences.

That said, my anecdotal impression is that from the point of view of specialisation, Highers and Advanced Highers work pretty well: Highers are harder than GCSEs but you do more of them than A levels, then AHs get you to a good standard. The problem can be that as university entrance (in Scotland) is based on Hs not AHs, many students relax for AHs. My heart always sinks when I see a string of As at Higher and then C and D at AH!

TheGirlOnTheLanding Fri 23-Dec-16 19:48:13

Birdy, my understanding is that the reason English students can go into second year is because the Scottish degree is four years long, rather than three. It was designed so that seventeen year olds could go straight from Highers to undergraduate courses. I'd assume those with good Advance Highers can also go into second year, as those are equivalent to A levels.

Groovee Fri 23-Dec-16 19:55:33

Scotsnet would be a good place to repost this. We have had exam threads posted during the lead up to exams then results.

My dd is currently sitting 4 highers and doing a resit on maths as uni entrance needs maths at a B but she got a C after a horrendous exam for her. She got 4 A's in her other subjects.

January/February Birthdays get the option to defer. I deferred Dd and she was 16 last January so she sat her exams at 16 instead of 15.

Ds is in S3. He chose 4 subjects and had 4 core subjects. He will make his further choices in February for S4.

National 4/5's are into their 4th year and I think we are seeing new things developing. I did Standard Grades so it's been hard adjusting to what's been expected.

wigglybeezer Fri 23-Dec-16 20:13:37

Advanced Highers are actually worth slightly more UCAS points than A2s , ie. An A* at A2 is equivalent to an A at Advanced Higher. Highers are roughly equivalent to A1s and National 5s to GSCE.
Scottish kids with good advanced Highers can go straight into second year at university but most choose not to ( they are sometimes exempt from a few exams if they have done, for example, AH Maths)

It makes more sense if you compare fifth year with lower sixth in England as that is what it is roughly equivalent, also the age difference is only about 6 months on average, I was 18 when I finished 6th year.

Sm031986 Fri 23-Dec-16 20:13:41

Based on my experience of Scottish system only, I think both you and your daughter will know which subjects she likes/dislikes and is strong in by the time she comes to choose her subjects so I wouldn't worry about her having to narrow her subjects earlier than your eldest daughter.

I also went to a Scottish uni with a quite a lot of English students. I was the same age as them & never found that I struggled by comparison. They were good at some stuff & I was good at others, just the same as anyone else.

good luck & I hope your daughter is enjoying her new school

museumum Fri 23-Dec-16 20:21:59

The Scottish system allows more subjects to a further stage than the English.
Highers / advanced highers are in a bit of turmoil right now but I would say that it's still a better system for a generalist as she won't ever have to reduce to just three subjects.

On average Scottish children start school six months older than English children and finish a year sooner (so six months younger) than in England.
Scottish university is a year more and usually (at least in the very old universities) offers three subjects in first year then two in second and then the named degree subjects for two years. So again, broader for longer.

You can say a lot about the shortcomings of Scottish education but you cannot say it specialises early compared to England.

whenwillchristmascome Fri 23-Dec-16 20:40:35

It's not the case that a Scottish student studies 5 subjects (Highers) at the same stage that an English student studies 10 (gcse), nor that they only have one year of sixth form. Highers (5 subjects) are done in S5, which is the equivalent of the first year of sixth form, when an English student would be doing 3 subjects. Then by the time they go into S6 they often have all or most of the qualifications they need for uni, and can then have a much broader approach and take more highers or even nat 5s, or else advanced highers. It's a much more flexible system.

homebythesea Fri 23-Dec-16 23:11:40

S5 is the equivalent of Y11. My Scottish relative who is the same age as DD has already done her National whatever's, when DD was in Y10. She us doing Highers now at the same time as DD is doing GCSE. She will do Advanced Highers at the half way point in DD A levels and thus will end her education one full year ahead

madnessdescending Sat 24-Dec-16 00:57:38

On the age thing - my DD will finish school a full year before she would have done if had stayed in the English system. In England, she was old for her year, and in Scotland she is young for her year.
And when she is in 5th year, she will be allowed to study a maximum of 5 Highers (she is academic), with as I understand it plenty of other children only studying 3 or 4. I don't see how she will then be able to do more highers in 6th year, as it would mean doing them after at least a year of not doing that subject, so I imagine that she will do 2 or 3 of the subjects that she did for highers, but at a slightly more advanced level. Presumably for highers she will have to do maths and English, and then choose between sciences and the arts. My older daughter, in 5th year, was able to do, on top of maths and 2 Englishes, 2 sciences, 2 languages, history, and the more fun subjects of music and drama. So a much fuller and more rounded education.
I agree that Scottish schooling is less full on. They are happy not to ability set and to go at a slow pace, which I don't think they could get away with in the English system. Everything seems very low key - eg almost no homework, and no-one is at all fussed if you ask to take your child out of school - they don't even ask for a reason. In England, asking for time out of school is a massive deal. I bought the Times Educational Supplement for Scotland a couple of weeks ago, and it said that the National Curriculum for Excellence has failed and that Scottish children are trailing behind English and Northern Irish children.

Goldnick Sat 24-Dec-16 07:49:17

At Higher in my school, most did 5. English and maths were required then I did physics, chemistry, geography (and Latin in my spare time as no new grammar made it an easy higher and I loved it!). But this set of subjects would have let me do anything from medicine to social sciences to pure science. Some only took one science and added another social science or languages. It was quite normal to pick up Biology for a one year higher in 6th year if you wanted, and the odd extra O grade.

Yes, your daughter gets out of school a year earlier, but you need to compare Highers/Axvanced Highers with A levels, not GCSEs - cf those with standard 5s. Wish mine were doing Scottish quals!

Dreamstosell Sat 24-Dec-16 08:17:53

But your comparing the GCSEs with highers which aren't the equivalent exams. The GCSEs are more of a level with what your daughter will study in 4th year in the Scottish system. So your older daughter studied 10 GCSEs and your younger daughter will do 8 subjects at that level not 5. And you mention your older daughter doing two Englishes. As there is only one English in the Scittish system your younger daughter will be able to do almost the same as her sister - Maths,English, 2 sciences, 2 languages, history and one other (fun) subject. So it is only one subject short of what her sister did at this level. She can then continue on with 5 subjects instead of the three that her sister had to drop down to. So she will in fact be allowed to have a broader base of subjects than her sister and will not have to narrow her choices as much.

museumum Sat 24-Dec-16 10:10:22

University entrance exams are highers or a levels.
Most have five highers in Scotland, most have three A levels in England. There is no way you can compare those and say that Scottish students are more limited in their choices!
It is common for Scottish children to take science and humanity/language subjects right to the end of schooling, this is not common in the A level system.

the age thing is a total red herring caused by your move between systems. Scottish students leave school for uni between 17.5 and 18.5 so on average when they are 18 so legal adults. It makes sense and works for us. Why do you want to keep your child at school till nearly 19? Do you think she'll be too young to handle university? (Remember we don't move students to "college" between school and university as some English students do, school is for children, university is for young adults).

Groovee Sat 24-Dec-16 10:13:04

You can often "crash" a higher if you have the ability to. Dd excels in Modern Studies and before the maths she was going to do RMPE. At our School you have to see the curriculum leader to see if you can join a subject you may have dropped previously. It's very flexible this way.

The article about is trailing way behind seems to be a bit odd as my dd has done better than my friends in England's children and so did a lot of her friends. But then my SIL read the report and it's triggered her anxiety again so god help the government receiving her letters,

madnessdescending Sat 24-Dec-16 11:44:54

At my DD's school they have in the past been allowed to take 7 subjects in the 4th year, but are apparently changing this so that she will only be allowed to take 6. So 6 in the 4th year, and dropping one so that will do 5 (max) in the 5th year. That's not enough breadth in my view, and highers are not the equivalent of A'level - at best they are AS level equivalent and certainly I have read that maths has been assessed as being below AS level.
She is mature for her age, so I'm not worried about her not coping with uni at 17 (when English students will be 18). But would prefer her to have a 2 year 6th form - in England that's a time when the pupils do a lot of extras, take up responsibilities in the school, etc. 1 year isn't enough for that, or for a substantially more in depth set of exams subjects. I know that English unis are not keen on their students being only 17, and get worked up over child protection issues, as until 18 students are legally still children.
I'm thinking that I will teach her a couple of subjects at home, and maybe see if she can take the exams at a 6th form college or something. It's not just about her getting into a decent university. I'm just as concerned that she should be well educated, in breadth as well as depth.

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