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New Scottish Secondary system - can anyone explain it to me please?

(18 Posts)
mustdash Tue 31-May-11 12:21:07

We've been in Scotland for a little over a year, and up till now, I've been very relaxed about the new system. All three DDs are in primary, the new primary curriculum makes sense to me, and I like most of what I have seen.

However. DD1 starts secondary after the summer, and MIL very helpfully gave us a cutting from the propaganda nonsense Sunday Post. Now, I am in a complete panic. Is it true that council by council will chose how many subjects they can offer, and that it could be as few as 5 in some, and 8 in others? Will some really be choosing subjects in S1/S2? Will she be able to apply to English Unis or for work, with bizarre new Scottish awards? DD1 will only be the second year of the new exam system, so I'm really worried for her.

There will be a new parents meeting week after next, and I'd really like to make sure I am at least asking the correct questions. The council website and the high school one are both completely useless give nothing away, and I can't find anything concrete on LTS.

Any guidance would be very very gratefully appreciated. smile

darleneoconnor Tue 31-May-11 20:53:02

Do you mean the phasing out of standard grades, being replaced by intermediates?

The intermediates have been around for about 5 years I think so they're not exactly new. During this transitionary period schools have been offering a combination of intermediates and highers. AFAIK Intermediate 1 is easier than s grade and is for pupils who will do int 2 in S5 then highers in s6. Intermediate 2 seems to be about tha same as credit level s grade and is for pupils who will do highers in s5 then advanced highers in s6. It does seem like a better system.

I think that even with the current system there is a big variation in the number of s grades and highers different schools allow/offer. So I dont think that's a change as such.

Are you worried that it isn't academically challenging enough for your DDs?

Also haven't pupils always chosen their subjects in s2?

Beveridge Tue 31-May-11 21:08:04

Haven't English universities always regarded Scottish qualifications as " bizarre Scottish awards"?!

The new National exams will do away with both Standard Grades and Intermediates, but the Higher will remain as the 'gold standard'. It is supposed to mean that pupils can do courses at the time that is best for them and individual schools will decide what their curriculum will be.

For example, pupils could be 'fast tracked' through exams in S2 and S3 giving them 2 years to tackle the Higher.

Salmotrutta Tue 31-May-11 21:14:01

The Intermediates are being abolished and new National certificates 4 and 5 are being introduced (roughly equivalent to foundation/SG general and SG credit respectively but slightly different and some schools may get some pupils to skip National 4 which has no external exam).
That said Highers are staying but the content for each subject is being changed a bit. Highers and Advanced Highers will remain the gold standard for University admission.
Some schools in some authorities may reduce the number of subjects on offer at National 5 or whatever. This is why teachers are uneasy as it restricts choice.
Go onto Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) website and have a trawl around. There's lots of info on there. smile

Salmotrutta Tue 31-May-11 21:17:59

X-post Beveridge smile

It probably is true that English Universities don't understand our system so well - which has actually always provided a broader education what with doing 5 Highers in S5 then 2/3 Advanced Highers and/or 6th Higher in S6.
That said I knew several people who made it to Oxford and Cambridge from our Scottish system! smile

darleneoconnor Tue 31-May-11 21:24:08

You are disadvantaged getting into english unis inc Oxbridge with scottish quals. If that's where you want to end up then switch to a scottish school which offers a levels. (but I do think the Scottish system is better overall)

Didn't know that about intermediates! shows you shouldn't believe everything you read on the internet! lol

pointydog Tue 31-May-11 21:40:55

I know lots of people who go to english unis with scottish qualifications. I don't think they are disadvantaged at all.

pointydog Tue 31-May-11 21:41:34

Dash, you need to search for Curriculum for Excellence.

Salmotrutta Tue 31-May-11 21:46:11

OP - you can also go onto the Scottish Qualification Authority's website (SQA) which will have info for parents too. But LTS might be better for navigation.

mustdash Tue 31-May-11 22:45:08

I'm clearly very dim. LTS doesn't have facts that I could find, just lots of lovely waffle. I haven't looked at SQA though, and will in the morning.

Just to clarify though - my lovely DDs are English, which is why this is a concern to me - they might want to return there at some point. My DH and I have 2 lovely sets of Highers and CSYS, and a couple of A Levels added in, because our school at that time did both (yes we are that old). We have found that as the English system evolves, people do find them easier to understand.

I wasn't sure if the Highers were staying, and it was the 4/5 bit I wasn't clear about. Greatly reassured that Highers will continue - I think!

Deep breath I think. EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT. grin

Thanks.

Salmotrutta Tue 31-May-11 23:57:43

mustdash - as a teacher I'm very aware that Parent Power is a Marvellous Thing (in some situations) so my advice is this:
Get informed via LTS or SQA and have questions ready for the Senior Leadership Team at your new parents' meeting.
Ask them about National 4 and 5 certificates - pin them down on what they foresee they will be offering with regard to subject choices (as in numbers of subjects).
Ask them about the way they interpret the 4 capacities - and does their interpretation actually add academic value (e.g. Co-operative learning sounds all very lovely but as pupils progress up the year groups they actually have to gather a hell of a lot of knowledge in many subjects. Co-operative learning doesn't always address this)
Ask them what they think of the National Assessment Resource (NAR). Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is suggesting that summative assessment (actual marked work) needn't be recorded/carried out officially (i.e. tests) until the end of S3 but their suggestions for assessment up to that point are woolly to say the least and teachers are rightly concerned.
If we are to suggest levels for pupils in S4 based on "professional judgement" rather than actual summative assessment then I suspect we are in for a world of grief. Parents and pupils want marks.
We do know our pupils and who can cope academically - but parents and pupils want summative proof of our judgement IYKWIM?? After all - this affects pupils' academic progress through school.
Personally - I don't understand why we are changing our whole curriculum in this way. We are performing consistently in International studies of literacy, numeracy and science - why fix what ain't broke??

Pheew - sorry, rant over grin

mustdash Wed 01-Jun-11 15:00:21

Thanks Salmo. I prefer a rant to waffle - at least it demonstrates you have passion and knowledge! More ranting I say.

My concerns from what I have learnt so far are mainly based on the increased levels of "professional judgement" which are called on, and that at the lower levels at least there don't seem to be national comparator levels. Fine if they continue to live in a little bubble, but not so much if we expect them to face the big wide world. Our experience so far is that we have encountered a huge number of really unprofessional (primary) staff, and my worry is that this lack of professionalism may be mirrored in secondary. Though obviously for the good of the country I hope it is just one school full of lazy bitter child hating hags.

I'm not sure I need marks - I campaigned for the boycott of SATs at the DDs school in England. However at S3/S4 level, I want to know how they are really doing - not just how they are doing compared to the other kids in their class. IYSWIM.

Anyway, first report cards under the new system are due out today - I'll have them in my hand in about half an hour, and I am sure some questions will be forming from then.

Thank you so much everyone for your input. smile

Salmotrutta Wed 01-Jun-11 15:41:54

I'm very sorry you have experienced unprofessional staff - I would honestly say that this would be unusual. Any Primary staff I have met during training days etc. have been enthusiastic lovely folk. Of course all professions have people who don't perform so well.
Any Secondary I have worked in has very committed and hard-working staff who all want the best for their pupils. And that is as it should be.
Your point about SATS is well-made. Teachers at Primary up here held out against testing at prescribed points and refused to do this unless they had judgement over when pupils were tested.
Assessment is a good example of something that will produce opposing points of view!! I use a lot of formative assessment but you still need a "benchmark" at some point to gauge how much knowledge and understanding a pupil has gained. But I don't believe in over-testing either.
Good luck with your information-quest! smile

mustdash Thu 02-Jun-11 20:01:42

I heard from a parent tonight, who has a child in S1 already that our council have chosen to allow 5 subjects at National 4/5.

I am fairly shocked, to say the least. The thought of being asked to chose only 5 subjects at the end of S3 is dreadful. I actually feel a little sick, and of course, angry

Does anyone know how many their own councils are allowing? One of the arguments Angus gave for setting the number at 5 was that "that is what almost everyone is doing". Even if it is, if any employer or further education establishment is given a choice between someone with 5 National 5s or 8 A* O levels, they'd be justified in going for the 8 IMO.

HELP!

Any feedback on how many subjects any council are allowing would be very gratefully received.

Thanks in advance.

KatieScarlett2833 Thu 02-Jun-11 20:09:08

DD S4, just sat SG in Maths, English, French, Biology, PE, Drama: Int 2 Modern Studies & Computing

She's average level intelligence-wise.

DS S3 will be sitting SG Maths, English, German, Physics, Chemistry, History, PE and Craft and Design

DS average too

So here in Fife it must be 8.

pointydog Thu 02-Jun-11 20:36:36

The current S1 is the first year group who will sit the first CfE National examinations.

You;re talking about standard grades, katie, not Nationals.

I don't know how many it is in my LA but I'll need to find out. I have a daughter in S1.

Jacaqueen Thu 02-Jun-11 22:39:26

Falkirk allow the student to pick 8 subjects

mustdash Fri 03-Jun-11 09:27:07

I think I'll start a new thread to find out what is happening across Scotland...

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