The SSTA conducted a survey of members in June following the end of the National Qualification cycle on the extent of ‘Multi-Course’ teaching in particular subjects in S4 classes. The SSTA received 1,247 responses that showed a subject hierarchy in Scottish Secondary Schools that highlighted an unfairness to both teachers and pupils.
Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said “this survey has highlighted the subject hierarchy within National Qualifications that exists in schools and the challenges teachers face in trying to meet the needs of pupils of all abilities across a range of subjects”.
“Subjects such as French (50%), Maths (44%), Chemistry and English (34%) were found to have most classes that contained pupils at a single qualification level. Whilst subjects such as Art & Design (6%), Design and Technology, and Administration IT (4%), were found to have the lowest number of classes with single course pupils.
“The subjects that had the majority of classes containing two or three courses were Business Management and Modern Studies (87%), Graphics and Geography (83%), with Administration IT and History at (82%). These subjects have the greatest demands upon teachers in trying to meet the needs of a full range of pupils. This is not taken into account, by the school, when exam results are announced”.
“This hierarchy is reinforced, despite the concerns raised by subject teachers as to the complexities of multi-course teaching, by schools attempting to manage the timetable. Pupils ‘subject choice’ often becomes secondary for most as the timetable and filling classes is the priority”.
“Subject teachers are often pressurised into the practice of multi-course teaching by schools that threaten the continuation of a subject should the classes not be full. This leads to an undervaluing of the subject and places impossible demands on the teacher in terms of workload and possible long-term employment at the school”.
“There appears to be a complete lack of understanding on those who put teachers in this position and for the sake of pupils and teachers this needs to change. Teachers are under-pressure to raise standards and improve the schools’ place on the league table rankings without the time and classes all following the same course”.
“It is concerning that in a time when the focus is meeting the needs for all pupils that only a minority of pupils are finding themselves in a class with all their peers following the same course. Some parents may determine it is better to restrict their child’s subject choice by ensuring they only choose subjects with the least number of courses in a class.
“The broad balanced curriculum for all pupils is under threat due to the demands of national qualifications, school league tables, class sizes and staffing difficulties”.
The main findings:
Single Qualification Course in S4 Class
The subjects that benefitted the most from single course teaching were French 50%, Maths 44%, Chemistry and English 34% and Biology with 32%.
The subjects with the least amount of pupils following a single course were Art & Design 6%, Design and Technology 5% and Administration IT with only 4%.
The median average for all subjects was between 15-17%.
Two Qualification Courses in S4 Class
The subjects that had the majority of classes containing two courses were Business Management 74%, Physics 66%, Graphics 56% and Modern Studies 50%.
The subjects with the least Music 37%, Drama 36%, French 33% and Art & Design with only 22%.
The median average for two course subjects was 46%.
Three Qualification Courses in S4 Class
The subjects that had the majority of classes containing three courses were Art & Design 56%, Drama 43%, Administration IT 39%, with both Modern Studies and History on 37%.
The subjects with the least amount of pupils following three courses were Chemistry 14%, Business Management 13%, Physics 10% and Maths 8%.
The median average for three course subjects was between 27-28%.
Four Qualification Courses in S4 Class
The subjects that had the majority of classes containing four courses were Design and Technology 26%, Drama 14% and Art & Design 13%.
The subjects with the least amount of pupils following four courses were English and Chemistry 1%, and subjects without four course classes in French, Geography and Maths.
The median average for three course subjects was between 3-4%.
Two and Three Qualification Courses in S4 Class
The subjects that had the majority of classes containing two or three courses were Business Management and Modern Studies 87%, Graphics and Geography 83%, with Administration IT and History at 82%.
The subjects with the least amount of pupils following three courses were Maths 55%, Chemistry 53% and French 50%.
The median average for two and three course subjects was between 76%.
Note to Editors
The SSTA represents nearly 7,000 members in secondary schools in Scotland.
Please note: the survey took place in June 2019 with 1,247 responses.
Further information from
0131 313 7300
Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association
West End House, 14 West End Place
Edinburgh, EH11 2ED