Experiences of 2nd year of N4, N5, and 1st year of new Highers

Note of Focus Group 26 May 2015 Glasgow FINAL_Page_1

On May 26th NPFS held a focus group to explore parents’ experiences of the new National 4 and 5 exams and new Highers qualifications, in the second year of Nationals and the first year of new Highers.  The report can be read by clicking the image above.  The report will inform our work and meetings with SQA, CfE Management Board and Education and Culture Committee, amongst others.

One thought on “Experiences of 2nd year of N4, N5, and 1st year of new Highers

  1. This Report is very helpful to us as parents of 4 such “guinea pigs”. Our son is in the Nat’ 5 cohort and all of our 3 daughters have just sat a mixture of old and new Highers. The girls attend 2 different schools in different Authority areas. Throughout this past year, we have experienced a great deal of confusion and frustration , not always being aware of where the differences lay in each subject. On many occasions the students were told by teachers that “ if this were the old/new higher…you would be marked differently for the same answer.” The inherent unfairness in the administration , lack of clarity and departure from “past paper” examples, in my view, flies in the face of the ethos of a “curriculum for excellence”.

    The students of 2013-2016 ( and unfortunately all 4 of my children fall into this group) are, as so many parents say, the “guinea pigs” of the new system. The long-term effects of being used in this way by our education system will affect all of their futures. Our family may be in a unique situation but the potential damage to each and every young person who has ( and will continue for the next year with “new” Advanced Highers) is simply unacceptable.

    Our own children have also had the privilege of being educated equally in Scotland and overseas, and whilst Scotland’s education system was historically held in such high esteem around the world, I regret to say that this is now debatable. Whilst we cannot deny the great initiatives and principles founding the new system, the management, implementation, lack of proper consultation and training leave much to be desired. Much has been made of the principles enshrined in GIRFEC; “Rights respecting Schools” under UNCRC; parental involvement; equality; wider opportunities for attainment…etc…yet why do our young people feel more and more under pressure to achieve certain grades “first sitting” to pursue their individual goals?

    What may become known as the “legendary” math’s Higher is a good example of the inadequacies in the new system. I couldn’t agree more with all the furore and outcry in the aftermath of the events of May 20th. One of my daughters sat the old Higher and one sat the new. We therefore had the advantage of comparing and contrasting over the past year. I would agree with everything that has been said about both examinations and would also add my comment that the SQA and First Ministers’ public responses and alleged “assurances” fall far short of what we as parents, and our daughters themselves consider satisfactory.

    Applying “grade boundaries” is a “one size fits all” approach: hardly consistent with Getting It Right For Every Child. To state“ no child will be disadvantaged” but then refuse to look at individual student’s previous evidence of attainment is merely an empty promise. Students’ results from last year ( sitting the old Higher) are being used as the benchmark to manipulate the statistical data of how many children in Scotland gain A, B C awards etc. for this year. So when those children who within 15 minutes of sitting the exam saw their hopes and dreams for the future go up in smoke, (and by the responses there were many of them), how can their actual performance on the day be compared to last year’s candidates, who were set a reasonable and fair exam’ and were not faced with the trauma of that experience? Even with national grade boundaries etc, there will certainly be some students who will be rightly dissatisfied with their results, or the results awarded to them by the SQA. How are they not disadvantaged?
    The SQA has abolished the appeals process. The SQA has refused to consider “exceptional circumstances” “examination” submissions for the Higher math exam, even when the published criteria is clearly met. The students are therefore left with no individual rights of redress/ appeal / complaint after 4 August 2015. They have, in my opinion, every right to feel aggrieved at this unfairness and at having been used as “guinea pigs”.

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