Exam stress means Portobello High axes activity week

Peigi Macarthur. Picture: Kate Chandler

Peigi Macarthur. Picture: Kate Chandler

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STRESSED teachers have been forced to cancel a popular 
annual activity session at the Capital’s largest secondary school because of the pressure of preparing for the new National exams.

Leaders at Portobello High have admitted this year’s suspended timetable – which usually takes place over the last week of the summer term and gives youngsters the chance to try out a range of extracurricular activities – will not go ahead.

They say the extra effort involved in preparing for the Nationals, which have replaced Standard Grades, is the cause and hope to have the timetable up and running next year.

Pre-paid overseas trips to destinations including Kenya and Spain will still happen, they added.

But the move has come as a blow to pupils at the school, which has a roll of around 1400.

Gillian Dunn, a member of the school’s parent council and has a son in S6, said: “Suspended timetable week is a real highlight of the year for the kids. It’s just disappointing for them that it won’t go ahead – it’s the best thing about the year for many of them.”

The cancellation comes amid an ongoing struggle to deliver the new system of National 4 and 5 qualifications, with Scottish Government ministers recently releasing £5 million to help teachers avert chaos as candidates prepare to sit tests in April and May.

Parents say they are not blaming the school and admit staff have been under huge pressure to deliver the courses.

“I think the teachers are under a lot of pressure with the new system,” said Ms Dunn.

“It’s more about pressure from the powers that be. They are forcing this change without it being thought through. There’s a lot of great stuff that happens at Portobello for suspended timetable and it’s a shame the kids are losing out.”

Concern has also been voiced over the impact of the new exams on staff morale at Portobello High and schools elsewhere in the Capital.

One parent, who asked not to be named, said: “Teachers are stressed. They are under huge pressure to deliver results, whether it’s the Nationals or something else, and I think that anxiety rubs off on to the kids.”

Leaders at the school said the move was “disappointing”.

Headteacher Peigi Macarthur, 
pictured, said: “It’s very disappointing but my staff are putting a huge amount of effort into preparing the new National exams so there just wasn’t enough time to plan for activities for over 1000 pupils.

“To do this we’ve set a staff working group who will be consulting with parents, carers and pupils to really revitalise the programme for next year.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com