Scotland’s Education Secretary, Mike Russell, has declared that the time table for National 4 and 5 qualifications, scheduled to replace Standard Grades and Intermediates, is on course. These new qualifications are less prescriptive about using traditional methods of teaching. Additional funding of £3.5 million is being allocated to secondary schools to help them prepare for the implementation of new qualifications.
He stressed: “In areas there will be no blanket delays, that’s absolutely off the agenda.”
However, East Renfrewshire Council has already said it will postpone introducing the qualifications for a year. Perhaps remembering this, seconds after declaring there would be no delays he also said that the choice on whether to delay introduction for a year will be up to head teachers. Considering the general level of enthusiasm for the controversial revamp, this means that blanket delays, similar to in East Renfrewshire, are somewhat likely after all.
A recent survey by Scotland’s largest teaching union found only three per cent of teachers said they are “fully confident” they will meet the existing timescale and 70 per cent said they were “barely confident” or “not confident at all”.
The mixed message was timed with Budget day at Westminster, in a move cynics would describe as aiming to limit press exposure of the upcoming SNP education failure. Scottish Tories were quick to leap on the bizarre statement which admitted that inspectors were examining other schools for readiness.
Liz Smith, Scottish Tory education spokesman, said: “This is an absolute shambles and it’s sending out mixed messages by saying there’s no blanket delay but it’s up to individual schools.
“He is all over the place on this and has lost control.”
Russell also invoked the ire of Scottish Labour by appearing to blame the possible delays on the schools themselves for failing to prepare properly. He insisted that despite allowing individual schools to delay the new exams if they felt they weren’t ready not many would take up the offer.
He said: “Every single director of education has made it clear there will be no such delays.
“The question has always been, ‘Are there one or two schools who have actually just failed to do what they are meant to do?’
Considering East Renfrewshire and how few teachers countrywide feel ready, it may be somewhat alarming for Scotland’s parents that their Education Secretary has a different way of counting to two than the rest of the world.