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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!

kaumana Thu 02-May-13 17:47:46

Seb1 Having read that, am I correct in saying that they only have one year to do the N5 followed by a year for highers? I found that document very confusing.

jennybeadle Thu 02-May-13 18:15:03

haggis I had heard that in one/some Angus schools they were getting to narrow down slightly in S3. At DD's the HT is insisting they must continue with ALL subjects till the end of S3. That means that academic DD has to keep on with DT, Home Ec etc even though there is not a cat's chance in hell that she'll be doing it at N5.

I've heard, but don't know for sure, that the reason there has been no outcry is because apart from parents just not realising, each of the political parties has had some hand in getting to the situation we're in now, and no one is willing to put their hand up.

Spanner21 Thu 02-May-13 18:59:01

Kaumana, yes they go to Nat 4 standard by the end of S3 then have a year to go to Nat5 and do Highers the year after. Supposedly the Nat5 helps with Highers more than old quals where a lot of people struggle with the step up. Also maths and English are not compulsory at Nat5! To my mind, kids should be being tested in a broad range of subjects at 16, not 6 as we will here.
To be honest, I think this isn't the fault of the government but the councils who do, after all, have the choice of teaching between 5 and 8 but have seen their opportunity to save money.

kaumana Thu 02-May-13 20:18:21

6 subjects is very limiting, basically you are having to choosing your Highers at a younger age than is necessary and as such narrowing further courses in FE etc.

I for example took physics and chemistry, which I was good at in S1/2 but realised ( too late) that the sciences did not really hold my interest. Luckily, being able to take 8 meant that I had 5 others to choose from to study for the Higher.

I would not be happy with 6 choices.

Also, as no one as seen the N5 papers ( have they?) it is hard to say how steep the learning curve is from the N5 to H.

Spanner21 Thu 02-May-13 20:45:53

Completely agree - these kids are choosing their Highers in S3. I think the SQA has published specimen papers bow on their website. For more info the Nat Parent Forum of Scotland is quite good and, for the record, the chairman doesn't think 6 is enough!

soontobeslendergirl Thu 02-May-13 21:35:05

In our school they are doing 7 chosen at the end of third year for National 5 but they expect to be able to award national 4 in a number of subjects at the end of S3 without external examination e.g. PE, Music, a language etc so the expect that by the end of S4 pupils will have 7 subjects at 5 and 3 or 4 additional subjects at National 4.

The council allows schools to decide themselves I think. Another school in the council area had intended offering only 5. The head mistress has mysteriously left and been replaced with the deputy from my son's school.

Everyone moves into their new year on Tuesday to ensure that there is enough time in the curriculum to fit it all in.

soontobeslendergirl Thu 02-May-13 21:41:26

Oh, and son is about to move to 2nd year, but they do 10/11 subjects at the moment and will do to the end of S3 - I think other schools start with about 14 subjects and then narrow it down in S2 and/or S3. I think that is how the can award the National 4s, as they will have done the requisite number of hours required for the topics.

kaumana Thu 02-May-13 21:57:34

Please correct me if I have got this wrong. All N4 apart from maths are marked internally and there is no grading just a pass or no national given.

Tbh as an employer this alone would make N4s null and void. For example to apply for an apprenticeship with us you must have English and Maths at a credit level pass at least.

soontobeslendergirl Thu 02-May-13 22:09:47

I think that is correct kuamana - I think if my kids were less academic that would concern me more. I look at the awarding of the 4s as a bonus so that they get some credit for completing subjects that they wont be taking any further - My son's school used to do early presentations for Maths and English at 3rd year anyway as most kids go on to take them at Higher anyway so I guess in the past, they grades they got for these subjects at Standard grade were probably a little lower than they would have got if they'd taken them at the end of 4th year.

soontobeslendergirl Thu 02-May-13 22:11:13

Meant to add that theoretically there could be children leaving school having never been externally assessed. Not sure how I would feel about that.

RhondaJean Thu 02-May-13 22:28:36

I've just spotted this so going to pitch in a bit. I work in education although I am not a teacher, I also have a daughter in s2 going into s3. We are in south Ayrshire and in s3 she has chosen 12 subjects which she will then narrow to 7 in s2. All south ayrshire schools except one are doing this; one school felt their pupils would struggle with 7 and so have decided on 6 subjects in s4.

The question of less scqf level4/5 qualifications than offered in previous years was raised at a parents evening I attended and the head (who is working on a cfe secondment and is pretty close to national policy) stated that university admissions work on higher qualifications and not scqf level 4/5. He had copies of statements from several universities saying that they would consider candidates on the basis of their higher results and -pay attention here! - their extracurricular activities and other broader qualifications eg d of e etc.

The concept is that in s3 young people still consider a broad curriculum and then in s4 focus on accreditation on their chosen subjects. They will have 12 subjects studied in s3 and potentially can pick one of those up again in s5 to gain accreditation whereas previously they chose 8 subjects in s3 and they couldn't pick another subject back up in s5, therefore the new system effectively extends the options available to them in senior phase rather than restricting it.

I realise there is a lot of concern about cfe but my viewpoint is that it is a progressive step for Scottish education and offers young people much more control over their learning. It's focused on developing skills and abilities and the national 4s take the pressure of external examinations away from young people. I'm nervous my daughter is one of the "test" years and I realise it's a massive change in mindset for many of the teaching staff but I have complete confidence in the principles behind cfe and the support which is available for teaching staff from education Scotland is spot on.

There is really no need to panic over how many subjects your children will have accredited in s4 as being an issue for their future uni applications.

seb1 Thu 02-May-13 22:36:28

Kuamana this is info from our school handbook, they do 8 subjects in S3, 7 subjects in S4 (in addition to the seven subjects studied pupils will be presented for a SQA Personal Development Award either at National 4 or National 5 level) and 5 subjects in S5. For S6 pupils there is more flexibility in their choice of study and pupils will choose from a diet of Highers, Advanced Highers, Enterprise, Leadership etc. All S4/S5 pupils are expected to continue to study Mathematics and English.

soontobeslendergirl Thu 02-May-13 22:39:42

Thanks Rhondajean that is very helpful. I think that the ability to pick subjects back up again will be a useful one. We were looking at the subject choices available to this years 3rd years and already thinking that when you take out maths and English to fill 2 slots there were much more subjects that my sons would want to take than available slots to take them. They would want to do 3 sciences and that effectively leaves 2 subjects free. So you end up thinking that they are going to ditch languages and things they would enjoy e.g. Art in favour of subjects that they "should" take e.g History/Geography.

It's all too hard - just as well we have nearly 2 years to think about it!!

Preferthedogtothekids Thu 02-May-13 23:38:52

We are in Fife. My daughter is a 3rd yr moving into 4th soon and her year are being allowed to take all 8 of their 3rd yr choices at National 4/5. The following year group, however, are only being allowed 7 subjects in 4th year. I don't think the Council had actually decided until very recently what their stance was going to be so they didn't want to upset the first chort of CfE.

jennybeadle Fri 03-May-13 10:29:44

Rhondajean I don't think anyone here is concerned about the value of the CfE, rather that some councils are allowing more subjects than others. It is a complete red herring to suggest that topics can be returned to later in school life, because at DD1s school at least, the school cannot accommodate any more than 6 N5s, 5 Highers, and 3 Advanced Highers.

There will be no returning to pick up a language, or music or art, or history for my DD. The school has no intention of providing for it, and are already talking about sending children by bus to the next town for "niche" (their words most certainly not mine) subjects such as - wait for it - physics. That travelling time will be taken from the school day, and is time when they will not be being taught anything.

Of course, plenty of people "in education" will be able to say that it is a huge success. I fully expect our council to be shouting from the roof tops that they have fabulous N5 results next year, and the year after. Meanwhile a number of pupils are leaving school with only internally assessed courses, and many more are effectively forced to chose their Higher subjects, and therefore whole future education in S3.

What the universities are saying is of course absolutely correct. T'was always thus. My concern is that those children with more options at N5 will be more sure of their Higher options, and making better choices, with the resultant better grades.

If my DD were being taught 5 miles from here we would be in another authority and she could have 7 subjects at N5. I would be much much less concerned.

soontobeslender 3 sciences will not be an option at DD1's school. The HT insists this is not a problem. They no longer have a great record of getting DCs into high tariff courses such as medicine or vet medicine. I can't see that changing any time soon. sad

soontobeslendergirl Fri 03-May-13 10:39:25

jenny - tbf the reason that they can offer 3 sciences is because of the type of teachers they have - they struggle to offer more than one language as they don't hav ethe staff and there is a National shortage of Home Ec teachers so I am told. I think with having smaller High Schools - ours has under 800 pupils, it is really restricting what subjects are available to pupils. My boys are both pretty clever (feel a bit embarrassed saying that, I'm not boasting) so the school suits us. although they are both keen readers and do really well in English, they love Maths, Sciences, computers etc so the available subjects will suit them I think. No2 son is also good with language so I guess he will head down a path that he maybe wouldn't have chosen but not one he is unsuited to. We shall just have to wait and see. This is No1 son's last day in 1st year and No2 son starts at High school after the summer so it is not quite real for us yet but coming very soon!

jennybeadle Fri 03-May-13 11:15:19

soontobeslender That's a really good point about school size, which I hadn't considered. DD1s school is also under 800 pupils. DD1 is also pretty academic (top of her year last year, definitely not a boast either!) and I suppose that is why I am so sad and frustrated for her. She does well in everything, and loves everything.

I know she'd have to prioritise no matter where she went, but with the options presented to the current S3 for N5, she'd have to drop art, and a science, and history. All of which she loves, meanwhile in S3 she'll be forced to continue really appalling Home Ec classes just in the name of continuing a "broad general education". Some narrowing for S3 might have made a huge different for her.

soontobeslendergirl Fri 03-May-13 11:22:40

I know - when I was at school we had loads of choices - Geology, Russian, Catonese, and loads of other things as well as the standard stuff but then there were over 400 in my year never mind the school. There are only 5 or 6 classes per year now at my son's school - they just can't offer as much as they only have so many teachers. sad

Spanner21 Fri 03-May-13 14:26:36

I agree with RhondaJean about uni applications looking mainly at Highers but I do worry that these kids are still going to have to explain to unis and employers why they only have 6 quals at age 16, when many of their contemporaries have 8. And will they all want to take the time to listen? CfE, we keep being told, is about producing young people who are rounded - to my mind, that means continuing the 'Broad General Education' until 16. Also CfE is supposed to be about tailoring to the individual, so why haven't we got flexibility in the number of subjects kids can study as well as the standard they study at? The base line for employers and further education has always been O grade standard qualifications - now an externally assessed qual in Maths and English aren't compulsory???

Anyexcuse Sun 05-May-13 08:17:06

I could be wrong and tbh haven't read all the posts but is it not possible that the concern over how many subjects you can choose is actually because English and Maths, and possibly, in at least 1 school I know of French, are required subjects and therefore not 'chosen'. This would bring you up to the 7 or 8 you might expect. This is certainly the case in the 2 schools I know of, in Stirlingshire.

soontobeslendergirl Sun 05-May-13 09:42:54

I'm in stirling too smile. Our 7 includes English and maths. The school that was offering 5 wasn't. It is now offering 7 after the change of leadership at the school. The papers we were shown seemed to show the standard cfe programme would be 6 in total, so I think that is probably what a lot of schools are doing.

Spanner21 Tue 07-May-13 09:03:58

Yes, it's definitely 6 including English and maths for us in Aberdeen.

PurpleFrog Wed 08-May-13 14:09:46

We are in Fife. My dd is in S3 and will be doing 6 subjects for National 5 - starting beginning of June. That was the maximum the school said that they could do in light of the number of hours required for an N5 course. Maths and English were recommended but not compulsory. Fortunately, my dd knows what she wants to do, and is happy with only 6 choices.

I have talked to parents or looked at the web pages for the other 2 secondaries in the area. One is offering 6 choices, but wants the pupil to nominate now which ones that they want to carry on to Higher! The other is offering 7, but I suspect that means that they started the N5 syllabus in Maths and English a year early.

soontobeslendergirl Wed 08-May-13 14:49:30

Purple, our school has started the 4th year curicculum this week to give them the requisite number of hours for 7 subjects - they have basically squeezed the extra hours from the Broad general education - they said it was tight but they have left just enough hours free for sports day and school show etc. I don't think they are allowed to start the N5 syllabus a year early as they still need to do the BGE hours........and last I'd heard they were still struggling to find out what it was for Maths!!

PurpleFrog Wed 08-May-13 15:34:58

Hmmm - dd's school has spent 20 periods per week on BGE for the last 2 yrs, and 10 periods per week on elective enrichment courses. They could easily have devoted some time to giving pupils a head start on N5 in core subjects. Actually, they have reduced the number of elective enrichment courses for next years S3, but will be allowing the same number of N5s as far as I can gather.

Whatever way you look at it, the present S3 do not have the choices that subsequent years will have, as the courses/exams are not available at all levels.

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