Curriculum for Excellence frequently asked questions
1. Why do students in S1 choose their subjects at the end of S1 rather than S2?
The lack of progress made by students in their second year of compulsory education at high school has been a national cause for concern. In order to increase motivation students are allowed to exercise choice in the subjects they study. After a following a full year of a broad general education (BGE) students are in an informed position to make these choices. Pupil evaluations have shown that students have increased pace and challenge as a result of being able to make subject choices.
2. Could it be ensured that parents in S1/S2 have a chance to meet teachers from all the subjects their child is interested in choosing, this has not been possible so far as there are not enough appointments?
Where it has not been possible to meet certain teachers at Parents' Evening parents should contact their children's pastoral teacher who will arrange for a written report or telephone call from the member of staff.
3. The subjects the children chose are called elective and the rest are called core, why are children who are already studying a subject in their elective studies required to study it again in the core?
Curriculum for Excellence stipulates that all children should follow a BGE up to and including their third year at high school. The 20 periods of core subjects in S2/3 ensures that PHS can deliver this pupil entitlement. The subjects studied in electives provide greater depth in specific areas but they do not cover the breadth of the experiences and outcomes (Es&Os) expected by the government. For example a student who studies Chemistry for two periods per week still needs to study core science as they will not cover the experiences and outcomes of physics and biology. These Es&0s will be covered in the core science period.
4. How can the course be engineered to provide enough stretch for both core and elective students?
Students report that there is considerable pace and challenge in their elective subjects. We are working to improve pace and challenge in core through revising existing courses based on students feedback and using the timetable to allow departments the opportunity for setting.
5. Why do the children only get the option to select 5 electives compared to their peers who have been able to take 6 choices?
The Curriculum for Excellence sets new guidelines for Scottish education which requires students to follow a BGE until the end of S3? PHS model allows pupil to experience a BGE while delivering 5 electives. We are presently investigating timetabling options which would allow us to offer a sixth choice along with BGE. This could result in PHS adopting a 33 period week
6. What happens at the end of S2? Is there any facility to allow students to change courses if they find they have made a mistake?
At the end of S1 students make choices that last for 2 years. Students typically have two months from the start of their elective courses where they are able to change subjects at the end of this time students follow through into S3.
7. Will there be either public or school exams for both core and elective at the end of S3 and what will they be?
The Scottish Government has informed schools that cohorts of students must not be presented for exams until their 4th year of secondary education. Students in S3 will be assessed by their teachers in order to inform future learning.
8. What happens at the end of S3? Do they carry on with the current course? Is there any option to change course particularly as their career choice becomes clearer?
All students will carry on studying English and Maths at an appropriate level typically this will be National 4 (N4) or National 5 (N5). Most students will also make 5 other choices at N4 or N5 level. These courses will last for 1 year.
9. Is N4/N5 a one year or two year course like standard grades?
At present PHS plans assessment for all senior school (S4/S6) which will last for one year. PHS may adopt 2 year courses of study when staff become more familiar with new assessments.
10. When will SQA first offer N4's and N5's? Which of their existing qualifications are being withdrawn then or will there be a period of "parallel running"?
The new qualifications will be gradually introduced. In August 2013 access 1 2 and 3 and N4 and N5 will be available. Standard Grades will cease to be offered in 2013. Standard Grade awards will be removed by 2013. Access and Intermediate awards will be removed by May 2014. The new Higher will be introduced by August 2014 and the new Advanced Higher will be available for August 2015.
11. Doesn't it make sense for some students to completely ignore N4's and N5's and present straight for Highers, either in S5 or even earlier?
The SQA has not made provision for a compensatory grade where students have narrowly failed. Due to this and the lack of experience teachers have with the new qualifications PHS will not advise its students to present straight for Highers.
12. How many subjects can students study in 5th year?
This depends on what they choose to study. In S5 students can study towards Highers these will be allocated 6 periods per week. As a result student can study a maximum of 5 Highers. Students can also study N4 or N5 courses which last for 4 periods each. A student can therefore study 7 N4 or N5 courses. Most students will study a combination of Highers and N5 courses.
13. Will students be able to do crash courses in 4th, 5th, or 6th year if they want to pick up subjects they previously dropped e.g. science, language or a vocational course?
Yes. Students will be able to elect for courses in the senior phase that they have not chosen to study as electives in S2/S3. As a result of the BGE all students will have some foundation in every subject which will allow them to take courses in senior school.
14. Under CfE to maximise the flexibility of teaching resource, doesn't it make sense after S3 to organise classes by subject level rather than age?
Classes in the senior school will be organised by subject. It will be possible for students in S4/S5/S6 to be in the same class.
15. Have universities issued any guidance about how they will view the balance between N4's, N5's, Highers and Advanced Highers or will they completely disregard N4's and N5's?
To date there has been little guidance from universities on how they will engage with the new qualification structure. Universities have been consistent in the message that the number of qualifications gained in 1 year is of more importance than a larger number of subjects gained over 2 years.
16. If Peebles is different to other regions in Scotland does this not put them at a disadvantage compared to students in other regions if they have to move school?
There is a wide variety of ways schools across Scotland have interpreted the guidelines from the Scottish government. As a result a new implementation group for CfE has been convened at the request of the cabinet secretary Mike Russell. In Feb 2012 the group issued their first briefing providing instruction to schools on the appropriateness of new models. The model of PHS is consistent with these instructions. It is conceivable that with the wide variety of models their will be challenges for students moving schools.
17. To what extent are the numbers of periods for each subject set down by the Scottish Govt?
Students have to cover all of the subjects in a broad general education up to and including S3. Each school must decide how much time its students require in each subject to cover the experience and outcomes of the BGE. Only RMPS and PE have a prescribed period of time within CfE.