New Higher Qualifications - Crisis in Confidence

The SSTA has today released results of its survey on the New Higher Qualifications. The response to the survey has been overwhelming and it highlights a teacher crisis in confidence.

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said “the survey confirms the view of many secondary school teachers that more time is needed to bring about these important changes. We continue to be alarmed by the clear lack of confidence being expressed by our members particularly in terms of the materials required and in their ability to assess pupils in the New Higher Qualifications. Such alarming rates of lack of confidence must be acted upon. If a teacher lacks confidence then this will be quickly transferred to the young people”.

“Equally alarming is the finding that nearly 54% of respondent indicated no confidence in their ability to deliver course materials for new Higher Qualifications and 68% indicated their lack of confidence in assessment procedures for the new Higher”.

“Furthermore, our survey attempted to capture the attitude of our members to the quality of support being offered. It is clear that the great area of dissatisfaction is with Education Scotland (79% dissatisfaction) and the SQA (82% dissatisfaction)”.

The SSTA teacher survey showed that

  • 54% were not confident in their ability to deliver appropriate course materials
  • 68% were not confident in their ability to assess pupils for the new Higher Qualifications
  • 42% were presenting pupils this year in the old Higher Qualifications
  • 92% believed that School Working Time Agreements gave insufficient time to implement the New Higher courses/qualifications
  • 79% not satisfied with support from Education Scotland
  • 82% not satisfied with support from SQA
  • 76% not satisfied with support from Local Authorities
  • 55% not satisfied with support from the school


The SSTA will be meeting Cabinet Secretary, Angela Constance, this week and believes this survey is further compelling evidence for the new Advanced Highers to be run in tandem with the existing qualifications for an extra year.

Comments made by SSTA members in the survey

“Over assessment has created serious workload issues, taking away from teaching and is very demoralising for pupils”

“In 30 years of teaching I have never experienced stress levels and workload issues like I have in the past few years.  I feel sorry for the young teachers coming into the profession as their work/life balance is extremely poor”.

“The amount of paperwork surrounding each qualification and the micromanagement of assessment standards is beyond ridiculous”.

“I’ve been teaching for 25 years; I’ve never felt so uncertain of my own subject’s curriculum, nor so much like a rudderless ship”.

Robert Macmillan, SSTA Acting President said

“We hope that the Cabinet Secretary will reconsider her decision in the light of these comments and present circumstances, and allow schools to delay implementation of the new CfE Advanced Higher by one year if they wish, as many opted to for the new Higher. This practical measure would demonstrate to secondary teachers that the Government is genuinely listening to their concerns and will show the public that the educational needs of young people are put first. The overriding concern of SSTA members is that the race to bring about change will adversely impact on our young people”.

Further information from

Seamus Searson
General Secretary
0131 313 7300

Please find attached the results of the survey. The survey was conducted in February 2015 and had 919 responses covering all subject areas.