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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
School scraps Standard Grades
School classroom
Some schools abandoned the exams in certain subjects
A Scottish school has become the first state secondary to declare its intention to abandon Standard Grade qualifications.

Pupils at St Ninian's High School in Giffnock, near Glasgow, will sit different levels of the new Higher Still exam system from August.

East Renfrewshire Council said the six other state schools in the area would follow suit.

This is a way of making sure that every youngster, regardless of ability, gets the very best that we can give them out of the school system

Hugh Docherty
Council spokesman

Spokesman Hugh Docherty explained that the intermediate 1 and intermediate 2 Higher Still courses would be phased in.

"These are part of the Higher Still package of examinations and they will replace Standard Grades for our youngsters," he said.

He said this would still enable youngsters to sit exams before they reached the full-blown Highers, while also offering a "safety net" for pupils.

Higher Still has four levels, which allows pupils to start studying for the qualifications in their third year rather than in their fifth year.

Under the existing system youngsters only have 30 weeks to prepare for their Highers.

New system

Mr Docherty predicted that Standard Grades would be phased out nationally in the coming years.

"In a way we are ahead of the game," he said.

"But we will be taking steps to ensure that we fully report this to parents and employers. That is very important.

"There is a job to be done nationally to explain the new exam system to parents and employers."

Judith Gillespie
Judith Gillespie believes the new exams are better

He said parents at the 1,600-pupil Catholic school had been informed about the changes and were happy with the move.

"Many people come to East Renfrewshire to come to our highly achieving schools and this is a way of making sure that every youngster, regardless of ability, gets the very best that we can give them out of the school system."

Judith Gillespie, from the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, who also sits on the board of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, said the move was always going to happen.

She pointed out that other schools had ditched Standard Grades in certain subjects - although St Ninian's was the first to "go the whole way".

Ms Gillespie said the qualifications were very similar to Standard Grades in some respects.

Most people were realising that the Higher Still courses were better than the current system and were better suited to those who had difficulty taking exams.

'Very helpful'

"I think that some schools are going slightly faster than people anticipated and maybe those who are in a position of authority in making strategic decisions have got to catch up a little bit," she said.

"But I don't think this is a shock or surprise to anyone.

"I think that perhaps schools pioneering it in the way that St Ninian's is doing will show people that there are no problems with what is happening. That is probably very helpful."

The exams have already been dropped by independent schools such as Aloysius College in Glasgow and Edinburgh's Stewart's Melville College and Mary Erskine School.

Government response

A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "St Ninian's is clearly entitled to follow the path they have chosen.

"Standard grade remains an appropriate examination for pupils in S3 and S4.

"However, some schools may decide to replace them with national qualifications.

"We expect, though, that most schools will continue to present their pupils for standard grades."

The spokesman said St Ninian's decision should be seen as an "endorsement" of the Higher Still framework.

However, George MacBride of Scotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, sounded a dissenting voice.

"We would be concerned that there appears to be a move at more advantaged schools to introduce new qualifications, with the risk that there will be a two-tier system of education in our schools," he said.

BBC Scotland's Asad Ahmad reports
"This could mark the beginning of the end for Standard Grade exams in Scotland"
See also:

29 Nov 01 | Scotland
Concern over school league tables
15 Aug 01 | Scotland
Pressure for exams shake-up
14 Aug 01 | Scotland
Exams body gets its sums wrong
08 Jun 01 | Scotland
Teachers vote for boycott
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