The audit requested by Education Scotland in the wake of concerns over preparations for the new National 4 and 5 qualifications has concluded that there is nothing to worry about and that the shake-up can be delivered on time.
It said it was “confident” that the introduction of the exams and full delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) “continues to be achievable within the currently agreed timescale”.
The new exams are part of the Curriculum for Excellence and are scheduled to replace Standard Grade and Intermediate qualifications from 2013-14. East Renfrewshire Council, home to many of Scotland’s top schools, has already stated its intention to postpone the introduction for a year but the audit claimed that no other school would be seeking a delay in introduction of the exams.
Teachers unions immediately condemned the report:
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said, “The so-called deep audit of CfE senior phase was a shallow exercise which barely skimmed the surface of the discontent felt in many schools around workload pressures arising from CfE implementation.”
Flanagan complained about the superficial nature of the audit and claimed that teachers had not been consulted. Scottish Secondary Teacher’s Association General Secretary, Ann Ballinger, also complained that the authorities had only completed minimal consultation with the teachers on the front lines instead consulting with council officials who were not aware of problems at school level. Ballinger also accused the authorities of effective coercion in making sure individual teachers were afraid to stand up and complain.
Education Scotland chief executive Dr Bill Maxwell disagreed saying that while the new exams marked an undoubted change and that change always brought challenges he was confident that apart from a vocal minority the report showed a large highly professional workforce of teachers and leaders responding positively to the challenge. The audit found that while an unnamed 21 departments had only made ‘limited progress’ towards the reforms, most schools were ‘well advanced’.
Labor education spokesman Hugh Henry is in agreement with the union’s concerns over the validity of the audit:
This so-called audit appears to be a whitewash,” the MSP said.
“Education Scotland haven’t spoken to the people who really matter, namely classroom teachers, and have instead sought the views of directors of education and headteachers. From what teachers and parents are telling us, there are genuine concerns about how ready schools are for implementation of the new exams.
“The buck stops with Mike Russell. It was his audit and it is up to him to deal with this in an honest, open and transparent way.”