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### Prioritizing Assessment Reform: Money, Equality, and Transparency

Funding emerges as the primary immediate concern for the reformation of Scottish assessment and qualifications, according to a comprehensive consultation process. The survey, which garnered responses from over 11,000 individuals, highlighted two other critical short-term priorities: the need for clearer delineation of the forthcoming educational reforms and the push for “parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications.” However, there exists a divergence of opinions regarding whether reducing the number of exams during the senior phase would contribute to achieving this objective.

Following the release of the findings in response to Professor Louise Hayward’s report last June, Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth is scheduled to address the Hayward review in the Scottish Parliament later today.

The recent review of the consultation feedback accentuates three prevalent areas identified as immediate priorities:

  • Securing adequate funding to augment teaching and support staff, alleviate teacher workload, assist students with additional support needs (ASN), and enhance curricular and technological resources.
  • Qualifications and assessment: stakeholders advocate for equality in the recognition of “academic and vocational qualifications.” Nonetheless, viewpoints diverge between maintaining the current system of exams in the senior phase of secondary school and advocating for a reduction in the number of exams.
  • Clarity in guidance regarding the nature of education reform and its implementation is imperative, as respondents perceived the Hayward recommendations as overly ambiguous. Stakeholders expressed the need for more information on the implementation timeline, essential actions for educators and schools, the substance of the proposed Scottish Diploma of Achievement (SDA), curriculum design, and internal assessment methodologies.

Significance of Teacher CPD

In the medium term, respondents underscored the critical importance of providing “more learning and development opportunities” for educators and support staff, particularly focusing on digital competencies, ASN, and student mental health and well-being. Additionally, they advocated for enhanced support for teachers to comprehend, execute, and deliver the suggested changes. The report accentuated that the necessity for “workforce and professional learning” was perceived as the most crucial among the 26 recommendations outlined in the Hayward report.

Enhancing digital skills among both educators and students, along with infrastructure improvements, was frequently cited as a medium-term priority, alongside curriculum enhancements. Respondents emphasized that “the curriculum should be streamlined and delivered consistently nationwide,” viewing the SDA as a platform to craft a new curriculum that should undergo continuous evaluation to cater to students’ needs.

Earlier this month, Tes Scotland disclosed a draft model for a curriculum review cycle that could potentially result in [ppp14].

Apprehensions Regarding Exam Removal

The analysis of the consultation feedback, published recently, unveiled widespread concerns surrounding the [ppp15].

Respondents expressed apprehensions that students might encounter challenges transitioning to Highers if examinations are eliminated at SCQF Level 5 [National 5 or equivalent]. Questions were raised about the fairness and uniformity of marking internal assessments across the country, as well as the credibility of internally assessed qualifications in the eyes of employers and higher education institutions. Furthermore, respondents highlighted the potential workload implications for teachers if they were tasked with overseeing internal assessments.

Potential Widening of Attainment Gap

Several significant concerns were raised, including:

  • Insufficient information on proposals for increased project-based learning and the logistical challenges of its implementation. Opponents feared unequal distribution of responsibility among students for the projects, potentially disadvantaging students from lower socio-economic backgrounds with limited resources and support.
  • The “personal pathway” approach, which could exacerbate the poverty-related attainment gap, particularly impacting students from wealthier backgrounds with greater access to extracurricular activities. Concerns were also raised about the disadvantage faced by students in rural areas, looked-after children, young carers, and disabled pupils. Some respondents argued for students to pursue interests and hobbies without the pressure of it being a measure of achievement.
  • The practical hurdles in executing the SDA and its implications on teacher workload, available resources, and funding, as well as its academic rigor and perceived value compared to other qualifications.
  • Digital profiles and assessment, given the unequal access to devices, the internet, and IT infrastructure across schools, which could potentially widen socio-economic disparities.

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