The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association representing 8500 teachers in Scotland's secondary schools today attacked proposals for the arrangements for the new examinations to replace the current Standard Grades.

In a message to members, Ann Ballinger, General Secretary of the SSTA criticised the current proposals for the assessment mechanisms.

"Members of the SSTA at their recent Council meeting passed a motion demanding that action is taken to prevent the introduction of a two-tier system of assessment which will penalise the least able pupils in Scotland. Under the proposals, pupils who will sit the examinations intended to replace the current Credit examinations, will have at least one examination paper which is externally marked. Pupils sitting General and Foundation replacement examinations will sit papers marked only within the school.

Mrs Ballinger continued, criticising these proposals as driven by financial considerations:

"There is no doubt that whatever is intended, examinations marked within the school will never lead to qualifications which will gain the same degree of acceptance as those marked by external markers. These proposals are made solely on the basis of minimum cost with no consideration given to their impact on young people.

"Both the Scottish Government and SQA have a duty to ensure that the Scottish qualification structure is fit for purpose and allows equality of opportunity for all young Scots. If these proposals are implemented they are clearly failing in that duty.

"The SSTA must also comment on level of funding available to support the writing of new courses for Curriculum for Excellence. Councils across Scotland are struggling to deal with unprecedented financial pressures. There is quite simply no money available for training courses or for supply cover for teachers undertaking development work. Consequently teachers have to make a choice of using their available time either to concentrate on existing pupils or produce material for the new courses.

Staffing levels in every school are being reduced and remaining staff have to work harder simply to maintain existing standards. The resources required to produce new courses for Curriculum for Excellence at school level simply do not exist.

It is unacceptable to damage the prospects of the current Primary 7 pupils by introducing them to a secondary curriculum which is, at best, only partially developed. The process will not work. We need to ensure this implementation is right first time and to do that we need concrete information, time and resources to prepare a fully developed curriculum with appropriate and fair examination structures. This will not happen in 2010.

For further information please contact Ann Ballinger, General Secretary on 0131 313 7300.

Additional background information

Motion passed at Council

In line with the unanimous decision taken at Congress, the Association calls on the Scottish Government to reconsider the proposal that courses at National level 4 are certificated using only internal assessment mechanisms.

The level 4 courses will represent the highest level of attainment for many pupils in the relevant subject. No qualification relating to such a course should be solely internally assessed. The retention of external assessment is essential and would ensure:

• the maintenance of standards and rigour associated with the current Standard Grade General and Intermediate 1 examinations

• the avoidance of a two tier examination system

• parity of esteem and equality of opportunity for the maximum number of pupils

• a reduction in the volume of new external moderation and additional marking for teachers

• The Association believes that the change to internal assessment is driven by financial rather than educational considerations.

• The Association calls for urgent talks with the Cabinet Secretary for Education to discuss this matter further.