The Need for Collegiate Decisions on Delaying new NQ Higher

Remarks in support of Motion E at SSTA Congress

May 2014

Congress believes that the philosophy underpinning Scotland’s curriculum is one of respecting the professional judgment of teachers and calls upon all local authority and school managers to ensure that decisions on implementing new Higher qualifications in 2014/15 or 2015/16 are taken in a genuinely collegiate manner at school and departmental level.

Education Committee 


This motion came out of the Education committee’s concern.

Concern in believing the ministerial announcement on any delay implementing the new Higher.
Concern that a sound business case for delay at department level would face a block either at local authority or at school level.
Because frankly, the minister can say what he wants.
He is not in charge of presentation policy in your school, my school or any school.
To test our concern we submitted a Freedom of Information request to each local authority that asked the following:
How many secondary schools do you manage?
Will any secondary schools under your management present S5 candidates for the ‘old’ higher in session 2014-15?

Where the answer to 2 is yes:
3. How many schools will continue to offer old compared with the new Higher?
4. In which subjects?
We have still to receive a small number of responses but I can share with you what we have so far been able to reveal.
First all local authorities were able to answer question 1. Most even did so correctly.
There were a mixed bag of responses with some giving a subject by subject, school by school breakdown.

Others were more vague.
There are clearly some subjects which show a fairly consistent pattern across the country of delaying.
Amongst these but not exclusively are: Computing, the 3 sciences and Geography.

Indeed it seems as though the subjects showing the most change are the ones that are more likely to be delayed in the coming year.
Congress, if a wee FOI request from the SSTA can reveal this information –  one has to ask why no one else seems to be gathering it – let alone acting on it?
Mind you there was one local authority who I will not name and whilst they could tell us how many schools they had, they didn’t have the information on the other questions.

In other words they have no idea which school is doing what let alone which department.
Some councils responded to us that yes they’d be pushing ahead with the new Higher.

But would be doing so through working with Principal Teachers to see what support was needed.
Others are bringing subject groups together to look at what they need and what they collectively can support one another in doing. 

In some cases, an initial desire to press ahead is being reviewed in the light of teacher and school concerns over:

SQA issues, departmental capability and what is best for pupils.

But Congress, we cannot have a postcode lottery of delay or support yet this is exactly what seems to be happening.

Even if our information from local authorities as accurate, we cannot tell if such flexibility is a reality in schools.

Because not all schools have the sort of collegiate discussions to ensure that the best decisions are made.
Congress, the ministerial announcement did not and could not promise a veto over the new higher for teachers alone.

It is right that an appropriate case is made by departments to either move ahead with the new higher or continue with the old.
But Congress, when such a case is made in needs to be listened to – and acted upon.

It is in nobody’s interest that out of ignorance nor vanity nor dogma or some other reason that a decision is made.
Of course, a major reason for delay and worries over implementation is an anger at the SQA.

But just as we should be angry at the SQA for what they have done to us, we should be angry at Education Scotland for what they’ve failed to do for us.

The SQA had to come up with a qualifications system that followed on from a broad general education. 

Education Scotland were to support teachers to ensure a Broad General education was in place and that the preparation for the new qualifications was too.
In these tasks Education Scotland have not just been found wanting they have been virtually invisible.
Whilst some have accused the SQA of incompetence, Education Scotland can rightly be accused of negligence.
In our survey relating to preparedness for implementation, it is worthwhile to note many things.
One being that as well as SQA being the subject of members’  criticism, Education Scotland were not that far behind.
With 93% of respondents indicating that support from Education Scotland was inadequate.
In response there will be steps taken by SQA, by Education Scotland and by others to ensure that lessons are learned from how National 4 and 5 have been implemented.

But with new timetables barely a few weeks away, action is needed urgently to provide support for the future and not just an evaluation of the past.

Congress the reality is that we are all implementing new Higher if not this year then next.

We need a collegiate discussion and decision on this in each and every school – 

and support for departments whatever decision is made.

This requires the input and a commitment to a collegiate discussion and agreement from all.

And we urge all agents involved in such decisions to ensure that the right decision is made for the right reasons.

Please support the motion.

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