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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
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 Tue 07-Jun-11 19:09:37

I have just read an Angus Council powerpoint but cannot link.

They specifically say that course choice will go down to 5 or 6 subjects in S4 as opposed to 7 or 8. Couldn't be clearer. Maths and English are not additional to the 5/6.

darleneoconnor Tue 07-Jun-11 20:37:22

Does anyone know what the private schools are doing?

pointydog Tue 07-Jun-11 21:29:54

One of the Edinburgh ones is embracing CfE. Can't remember which one now. Last time I looked them up, most seemed to be hanging fire. Some follow the English system anyway.

Annunziata Tue 07-Jun-11 21:42:45

I did hear rumours some of the Glasgow ones are switching to A-levels, but it is purely gossip and I'd not put my mortgage on it.

The CfE seems more about "skills" and "personal achievements" than a solid education.

AngusOg Tue 07-Jun-11 22:00:00

I did hear rumours some of the Glasgow ones are switching to A-levels, but it is purely gossip and I'd not put my mortgage on it.

Parents paying on top of their taxes for their children's education want some credible ( to employers / universities) exam results. Who can blame independent schools for using the English exam boards when the present proposals in Scotland seem so nebulous?

The CfE seems more about "skills" and "personal achievements" than a solid education.

You've got it in a nutshell. CfE - a methodology that is perfect for primary...

mustdash Tue 07-Jun-11 22:17:37

I just picked up this from the head of the school DD1 will start in August. It feels slightly stiff, but quite open.

Any thoughts from anyone at all, quite welcome!

"Thank you for your enquiry regarding the Angus Council presentation policy for young students who have now embarking upon our Curriculum for Excellence programme.

The ‘national debate/discussion’ regarding the number of subjects to be studied during the CfE Senior Phase ( ie S4 -S6 ) is still ongoing. May I draw your attention to the latest advisory note received from the CfE Management Board ( copy attached ), in particular Section 4 – Concerns about the number of presentations in S4. This advisory bulletin does not offer local authorities specific advice as to the precise number of subjects to be studied in S4 and beyond but offers a perspective of the developing CfE models that are beginning to emerge across Scotland. The consultation and discussion continues across Angus and involves all eight Angus secondary Parent Councils.

At next week’s meeting of P7 parents I will be outlining the proposed model we are developing for xxxx.

What I can tell you is that we are planning to offer pupils a broad general educational experience during the CfE Junior Phase ( S1-S3 ) and we are considering the study of up to six subjects in S4 of the Senior Phase reducing to 5 subjects in each of S5 and S6.

I will be more than happy and willing to share more details of our planned CfE programme at next week’s parents meeting.

The first presentations at National 4 / 5 will be in May 2014 therefore we still have time to review and consult on our curricular plans before anything is agreed. As part of our ongoing consultation process I intend to have a further series of parental CfE consultation meetings in the Autumn."

darleneoconnor Wed 08-Jun-11 00:13:21

5 subjects is a lot to be doing in 6th year isn't it? I know I only wanted to be doing 3 by that stage.

wigglybeezer Wed 08-Jun-11 16:34:50

Pointy, I didn't mean to imply that you had interpreted your info wrongly, I was just hoping, for your sake, that Angus were just being unclear.

I am worried that the emphasis on "skills and achievement", while of benefit to those children whose parents don't send them to scouts or music lessons or teach them about cooking and budgeting, will mean my children will have a less academic education than I had.

I was able to do eight 0-grades to enable me to do three sciences as i wanted to be a vet, I then changed my mind and was able to do crash highers to allow me to go to art school (must have been fun being my parents at the time!).

I have read some information that implies that, in some schools at least, there will be later opportunities to pick up subjects that had been dropped at the end of S3. I also read of Scottish Baccalaureates in science or language (which I had not heard of before).

It seems as though clarity is needed urgently.

celticlassie Wed 08-Jun-11 17:50:36

This is a subject close to my heart because, as a secondary English teacher, my view is that the whole thing is a fucking shambles. The reason parents aren't being told anything is because schools genuinely don't have a clue what's going to happen.

Last year, when first year started CfE was not an issue, really, as we continued much as we had done in the past but we would normally start bright S2s on SG work in S2 as S2 has traditionally been a bit of a wasted year. HOwever, this year we can't because no-one knows what format the 'national' exams are going to be in. So we've had to come up with an S2 course based on what we do know is going to happen - which is that as some point they will sit Higher! Not entirely helpful and certainly not conducive to creating 'successful learners'. hmm

I think CfE (maybe) works in primary schools but for kids aged 14+ these 'I can' statements are nothing but dumbing down. In my school I believe the intention is to study 8 subjects and standards should remain rigourous but I can't help feeling that some schools may use CfE to disguise falling standards. (Which, let's face it, was probably the reason for it in the first place).

Rant over. (For now.)

pointydog Wed 08-Jun-11 19:10:34

celtic, your post covered pretty much the things I feared.

I heard about another high school in a different LA today and they, too, are considering 5 or 6.

mustdash Wed 08-Jun-11 19:15:26

celticlassie could you tell me what area you work in? No details needed obviously, but it would be enormously helpful if when I do meet with the head I could say that though I think that 6 is better than 5, if eg Highland are offering 8, then what can we do.

Thanks, I had no idea teachers genuinely didn't know what they had to do with this! It must be a nightmare for you all,

pointydog Wed 08-Jun-11 19:27:55

High schools are making it up as they go along. So are primaries but as others have said, the impact is not so great in primary.

celticlassie Wed 08-Jun-11 22:12:19

I'm in a very large city in the central belt. Not the capital one. (shhh!) wink

neepsntatties Wed 08-Jun-11 22:47:42

I can tell you what we are doing, filling in endless forms with stupid e and o codes. It's such a monumental waste of time. I am sick of trying to plan lessons without all the information I need and I am fed up of not having enough time to write new courses because I keep having to fill in stupid bloody pointless forms.

mustdash Wed 08-Jun-11 23:05:01

I'm really confused now. Scottish Bacc?

I just had a quick look at the Scottish Bacc pages on SQA. If the Scottish Bacc has been around for 2 years already as it seems, why have I not heard about it (other than possibly because we weren't living here when is started) and why are Scottish Bacc figures not published? Or are they?

This is increasing mad, and maddening.

hairypotter Wed 08-Jun-11 23:09:46

DD1 is in s1. At our PTA meeting last week this topic was brought up as a few members have dc's in that year group. The headteacher advised that our LA has decided on 5 - 6 however our school was not willing to accept this and has opted for 7 - 8. She expects that many other schools will follow our example.

I have to say, I'm extremely worried about this whole set up. I don't like the thought of my child and her peer group being guinea pigs for something so badly thought out and untested. I'm happy that our school has pushed for more subjects as I would be even more uneasy if I thought she would only sit 5.

Our headteacher did her best to reassure everyone that this will work. It has to work first time if it's not going to disadvantage our children.

mustdash Thu 09-Jun-11 10:17:20

hairy I love your name.

It is interesting and reassuring that heads are willing to face up to councils on this one. I think they will need a lot of support from teachers and parents to make it stick though.

pointydog Thu 09-Jun-11 16:59:17

hairy, are you willing to say what LA you are in?

hairypotter Thu 09-Jun-11 21:05:59

Yes we are in South Lanarkshire. Our headteacher and staff are amazing and really have the best interests of the children at heart.

There will be many more discussions about this, but I'm feeling happier albeit only slightly, knowing my dd will be able to take more than 5 exams.

Still not impressed though. I hate all this uncertainty where no one knows for sure what form the exams will take.

pointydog Thu 09-Jun-11 22:19:25


primaryscot Sat 11-Jun-11 20:17:47

I'm a primary classroom teacher in Scotland. I have been on the front lines in developing CfE for the past four to five years.

Let me make this clear: there has never been any guidance worth talking about from the LA or the SG on CfE, beyond that infamous green folder full of "Experiences and Outcomes".

The rest has been all shoved off on teachers to invent and implement as and when we have the time and energy.

At present, individual teachers, schools, and clusters are all over the map on CfE and no-one knows what anyone else is doing. Assessment in primary is moribund.

God knows, I was no fan of 5-14, but they have clearly thrown the baby out with the bathwater on this one.

A disaster is in the making here for Scottish education.

Be assured, parents: whatever the SG and LAs are doing, or whatever they are telling you they are doing, it's all damage control. They haven't a sweet clue what's going on and where this will all lead.

SO WAKE UP, PARENTS IN SCOTLAND. GET AFTER YOUR MSPs and your COUNCILLORS and make them sit up and listen, or else your kids are going to pay a very heavy price.

primaryscot Sat 11-Jun-11 20:23:04

Pointy Dog wrote that "as others have said, the impact is not so great in primary."

As a primary teacher, I beg to differ. The impact in primary is huge, but it's masked, because a lot of teachers are simply reverting to teaching in the old topic/theme style, which is NOT what CfE is all about.

In addition, valid and reliable assessment is primary is effectively dead. This will definitely impact on the placement of pupils in S1.

Top to bottom, it's a shambles. But no-one with the power to do anything about it dares to say that.

So it's exactly the same as with government: in a democracy, you get the education system you deserve.

Waswondering Sat 11-Jun-11 20:40:58

(Marking place ... have primary aged children in a Scottish school ..... I grew up in Angus and dh has taught there but nothing further to add!)

confuzzledmonkey Sat 11-Jun-11 22:00:16

As a secondary teacher in the Angus authority, I'll openly (but ashamedly) admit to not having a bloody clue what it is I'm supposed to be doing with CfE.

I seem to fill in endless bits of paper and using statements that mean nothing to staff, pupils and parents. What's worrying is that these statements have different meanings in different authorities all over the country. They also have different meanings in different schools in the authority.

I have a list of experiences and outcomes that I am supposed to cover, but I do not know how to assess my pupils. Even when (if) I do manage to figure that out, I have no idea how to record it - there are so many different areas to be 'assessed' that I can't fit everything on one sheet!

When I ask questions from those 'above', I get nothing but exec speak which doesn't answer the question I've asked. I have now decided that those people who are supposed to be telling me what to do don't actually have a clue what it is I am supposed to be doing.

Angus have suggested that only 5 subjects be studied in S4, but they still seem a little unsure as to how that's actually going to work. It has been muted that S4, S5 and S6 could all be taught in the same class - with no thought about content/topics and age or suitability.

National 4 and National 5 are still in progress, we do not actually know what they will entail. That makes planning for anything next to impossible. If we are to teach 'certified' courses in one year, then some of the preparatory work is going to need to be done before that...but if I don't know what is in the course/exam, I can't prepare for it.

National 4 is entirely internally assessed. There is already huge pressure on teachers to get pupils to pass. A completely internally assessed course will of course ensure that nobody fails - and if they do, we'll be told not to let it happen again. What's worrying is that for those pupils only sitting N4 and leaving at the end of S4, they will never have sat an exam in their life, and are unlikely to have ever experienced failure. That bears no resemblence to real life whatsoever.

I have no clue about N5 whatsoever, apart from that it will have an external exam.

This week I have seen the proposals for the new Highers, and I am not filled with hope of academic rigour or raising standards. The new Higher seems to be in-line with the current Int2 course. That tells me that N5 will be in-line with Int 1 and N4 with Access 3 - so that would be lowering standards from where they currently are.

All in all, CfE is a total bloody disaster, and the more parents kick up a stink about it the better.

I've been directed here by a friend, I do not have children of my own - and in the light of what is happening in education at the moment, I am very grateful. However, my partner and I are likely to have children while CfE is still in place (becasue lets face it, as much as we don't like it, it's not going away), and we have already discussed the prospect of home-schooling or private schools working on another educational system.

Despite my position as a teacher in state education, I most certainly will not be sending my children to school under CfE - I want them to get an education, to learn and develop. To be challenged, rewarded, encouraged, enthused and motivated. In my opinion, CfE is not going to allow any of this to happen.

ecogan Sat 11-Jun-11 22:08:13

Some kids will have 3 years education others will only get 1 year or anything in between. No real structure and no way to transfer between authorities because each one will be doing their own things.

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