SSTA says ‘Put Pupils First’ in this school year

The SSTA has concerns over the exam burden and the impact on pupil well-being if the current national qualification system is allowed to continue for a further year. The proposed changes for National 5 will not take place until the 2017-2018 session.

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said “the SSTA is acutely aware of the workload pressures associated with the National Qualifications but we are extremely concerned about the potential damage to our young people as the pressure intensifies at this time of year”.

“Should you ask most parents of a young person who has been processed through the national qualification system in last few years, they will tell you it was the most demanding and some would say unnecessarily stressful time for their children”.

“We cannot afford to take the mental health and wellbeing of our pupils for granted simply because there are no outward indicators. We have to accept that school, the curriculum, the at times unrelenting internal assessment of our 15 and 16 year olds between January and April is a contributing factor to pupil stress and can damage pupil welfare”.

Seamus Searson added “Teachers can question the pointless and often invalid assessment burdens.  Teachers question the frequency and intensity of assessment faced by our 15 and 16 year olds sitting N4 and N5. Every time a unit assessment, an Added Value unit, a folio piece, a prelim, an exam, is carried out, everyone can see the anxiety across our pupils’ faces. There are relevant assessments, the ones that hone the skills necessary for exams, for progression within the subject, for entering the workplace. Unfortunately, others, whether in full or in part, are NOT necessary for the exam, NOT valuable for progression, NOT developing skills for work and these are the pointless assessments”.

A typical example of the ‘average’ pupil in S4. She is sitting 6 subjects in S4 and in some schools she could be sitting 7 or more.

Our ‘typical’ S4 pupil could be taking 3 subjects at National 4. This could be Modern Studies, Biology and Maths that includes 3 unit assessments and an Added Value assignment for each subject.

In addition, she could be taking 3 subjects at National 5. This could be History (3 unit assessments and a coursework assignment), Music (3 units encompassing between 4 and 6 assessments altogether with the performance element taken into account) and English (2 units, comprising 4 assessed elements and a N4 Added Value assignment thrown in as a fall back.

In short, at best, she faces 24 assessments or assignments – the majority of which will be crowbarred-in between January and April.

Euan Duncan, SSTA President concluded “Teachers have been, by and large, left to develop courses and assessments as they teach them. This has led to overbearing stress that experienced professionals, as adults, are struggling with and that stress is unintentionally, yet undeniably, being transferred and transmitted on to our pupils. The Government and the SQA need to review current assessment requirements and accept that the gathering of naturally occurring pupil classwork together with the use of teachers’ professional judgement are sufficient, and reduce the pressure on our pupils.”

Further information from:

Seamus Searson
General Secretary

1 November 2016