Page last updated at 18:29 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Exam changes postponed for a year

school exam
The plans had been described as "seriously flawed"

Plans to overhaul the exam system in Scotland have been postponed for a year to give teachers more time to prepare.

Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning, said pupils would now sit the new Curriculum for Excellence exams in 2014.

The announcement came as the consultation over what the Scottish Government billed the "biggest shake-up for a generation" draws to a close.

The plans had been described by a head teachers' union as "seriously flawed".

School Leaders Scotland (SLS) had warned there was the potential for a repeat of the exam chaos in 2000 unless ministers rethought their plans to overhaul the curriculum and exams system.

It was originally proposed that secondary school pupils would sit the new exams in 2013, but the Curriculum for Excellence Management board advised this was delayed.

Some schools will be implementing the new curriculum in 2009, with the remainder all beginning in 2010 to allow pupils to sit the new exams four years later.

'Deep concern'

Announcing the postponement, Ms Hyslop said: "It is essential that we devote the correct amount development time to introducing this major change in teaching learning."

Labour's schools spokesman Ken Macintosh said it was right not to "rush into" the new system if concerns have been raised but Ms Hyslop had shown a "lack of leadership" on this issue.

He said: "The education secretary has allowed this policy to drift and that could undermine the new system completely by damaging confidence in it."

The Scottish Conservative Party's schools spokeswoman, Liz Smith, said she was not surprised by the decision.

We welcome the government's willingness to respond to concerns about the tightness of the previous implementation schedule
Larry Flanagan
EIS
She said: "There is deep concern amongst the profession that the proposals for a new exam structure - which is much needed - are inconsistent in places and do not provide sufficient detail when it comes to the implications for school timetabling and subject choice.

"These are matters which I am sure will be highlighted within the various responses to the government's consultation document. I hope that it listens to and acts upon the advice of professional head teachers and their staff."

Larry Flanagan, education convener of the EIS union, said the teachers' union supported the proposals as the extra time was necessary.

He said: "We believe that achieving this aim requires that teachers are given adequate time for professional reflection and development work on the new innovative teaching and learning programmes required.

"We welcome the government's willingness to respond to concerns about the tightness of the previous implementation schedule and look forward to continued partnership work delivering Curriculum for Excellence."

School staff are broadly behind the idea of streamlining a curriculum widely seen as overcrowded, and an exam system that is often perceived as being eye-wateringly complex.

Ministers are proposing a new single exam to replace Standard Grades and Intermediate exams, two roughly equivalent qualifications normally taken in fourth year.

And they have also proposed literacy and numeracy exam for 15-year-olds.

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