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Last Updated: Monday, 10 December 2007, 08:29 GMT
Call for major education shake-up
By Seonag MacKinnon
BBC Scotland education correspondent

Ministers are being urged to undertake a radical shake-up of Scottish education, BBC Scotland has learned.

Pupil writing

A report due to be released this week calls for testing of more pupils, abolition of Standard Grades and the launch of a new broad-ranging leavers certificate.

Ministers say they will consider the report carefully but won't make any further comment on the document until publication at 1600 GMT on Tuesday.

International experts are flying into Scotland for the event.

The report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international research body, is separate from a limited report it released last week, which indicated Scottish pupils are not doing as well as they used to in three key subjects.

The new document, Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland, is a special one-off major report commissioned by former education minister Peter Peacock.

The broad-ranging study highlights many strengths of our education system - but also serious problems such as the large number of pupils who do badly at school and end up doing little or nothing when they leave.

It says there are other countries which are more successful in educating children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The report's authors say our secondaries are too academic and should go much further to ensure pupils have the chance to begin learning a trade or skill

The document states: "Who you are in Scotland is far more important than what school you attend, and at present Scottish schools are not strong enough to ensure who you are does not count."

All children should be tested, it argues, so that there is reliable evidence of what progress they and their schools are making.

Researchers propose this is done by rolling out the Scottish Survey of Achievement which is carried out by independent education staff who visit schools. At present the SSA assesses only a sample of children. The report says this test data should be used to hold to account the local authorities given money by the Scottish Government to run our schools.

It states: "There is (also) a concern that without reliable data on student achievement and school performance throughout Scotland the suitability and effectiveness of the current methodology for distributing grants to local authorities cannot be tested."

Although the authorities - and schools - would be held to account more under the document's proposals - they would in return have more autonomy over staff and the curriculum.

Exam hall
The researchers are calling for phasing out of Standard Grades

The report's authors say our secondaries are too academic and should go much further to ensure pupils have the chance to begin learning a trade or skill.

They also say children should not necessarily be sent to college to do this vocational education - teaching them on site would be more socially inclusive.

Standard Grades should be phased out, the OECD report says, partly because the lower levels do not have much status and act as a block on the development of vocational education in schools.

The researchers are calling for the launch of a Scottish Certificate of Education - a "graduation" certificate for young people in schools, colleges or jobs to mark completion of an approved programme of studies or training.

They also challenge the value of some current courses, set up by exam body the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

These, they said, have been set up with input from "institutions that do not deliver the product and have no connection with the consumers, either teachers or students, while exercising very considerable influence over design".

Responding to the report, Professor Douglas Weir, of Strathclyde University, said: "We already have a big improvement programme under way in Scottish schools.

"If the government uses this report to divert us from that I would be concerned. Testing more pupils for example is controversial."

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