Teachers say new exams are ‘fraught with danger’

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SCOTLAND’S biggest teaching union today called for schools to be allowed to delay new exams for a year if they are not ready to implement it.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) claimed the move to Nationals – which will replace Standard Grades and Intermediates as part of the Curriculum for Excellence framework – was “fraught with danger”.

Under Scottish Government plans, pupils currently in second year at secondary school will be the first to sit the new exams in 2014.

But incoming EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said the Scottish Government seemed determined to go for the “big bang” approach, with everyone moving to the new exams at the same time.

He said he could not understand why ministers were so “fixated” on delivering the change in a single move and claimed many schools felt they needed an extra year to “get their heads around” the new exams. Mr Flanagan said: “One of the difficulties is the detail of the new qualification is not yet with schools. There is a limit to how much schools can prepare without that detail.”

He suggested it would be safer to wait rather than put pupil exam results at risk.

Education Secretary Mike Russell said he was happy to discuss the EIS’s concerns, but warned a delay at this stage could be disruptive for pupils.

He said: “Young people are already being prepared for what is taking place. There is a view that it would be tremendously disruptive to change that at this stage.

“The consensus among our partners is strongly in favour of uniform implementation of Curriculum for Excellence and new qualifications across all local authorities.”

Mr Russell insisted the switch to the new exams was running to time and all the preparation work was in place, despite the EIS concerns. He said: “Every other organisation involved in this believes it’s in place. However, I do take their position very seriously. I will look at everything I can to help to make sure we get this absolutely right.”

Mr Russell said individual school departments could apply to postpone introduction of the new exam for a year. But he said: “Not a single school department has yet indicated they are looking for a delay.”

Earlier this week, East Renfrewshire Council, which records much higher numbers of exam passes than any other area in Scotland, said more time was needed to train teachers for the new courses.

Mr Russell is expected to meet the EIS next week.