Friday, 15 September 2017

SQA Fieldwork - what's it all about?

No, we’re not talking about tattie hoakin’ or anything similar – it’s an interesting piece of work by SQA about what parents, pupils and teachers in schools think about the SQA qualifications our youngsters take in schools, and especially the changes that have been (and are being) made.

Although not written for parents, it is worthwhile taking a look, particularly if you have a youngster coming up to or in Senior Phase at secondary school, or if you are on a parent council at a secondary school.

From our perspective, the key issues for parents (and parent councils) in the report are:
-       The move from Broad General Education (at the end of S3) into Senior Phase (S4 onwards) is still an issue. Many schools are looking for subject choices before the end of S3 – in some cases in S1. This may be for a number of reasons, but many parents fear this, and varying numbers of subject options, are narrowing choice for their young people.
-       Slow pace of learning and ‘treading water’ in S1-3 was also raised often
-       Many young people and teachers feel the pace of learning and the complexity of the subjects goes up too steeply as they start working for qualifications – the aim of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) was that the pace would be even from S1 – 6
-       Parents and young people say they are not clear about the CfE levels, and what they mean for youngsters’ learning
-       Parents overall do not have a clear idea of their youngster’s progress
-       Over-assessment continues to be an issue, with young people feeling under a lot of pressure

-       N4 is discussed a lot: while teachers generally would like to see an exam at the end, pupils are more in favour of different levels of pass (at the moment it is just pass or fail.)
-       There is also a lot about whether N4 is a worthwhile qualification, whether it is valued by young people, parents and employers.
-       ‘Over presenting’ at N5 is also highlighted: teachers say they are under pressure to put pupils forward for an N5 even when they don’t believe it is the right thing. They say the pressure comes from parents as well as head teachers and the local council.
It is interesting that ¼ of schools said that good communication with parents and carers where decisions were being made about N4 or N5 led to little or no parental pressure to put a pupil forward for a qualification the teacher felt was unsuitable.
The report throws up a lot for schools, parents and young people to think about.

From our perspective, the big things are about how schools are communicating with individual parents, and how parent councils can help. There is also a big question mark about how parent councils are making sure the school management are listening to the views of parents (and pupils) about qualifications. If schools that communicate well with parents report that good parental communication removes or reduces parent pressure to put pupils forward at the wrong level, what does that tell us about the other ¾?

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