As you may be aware, as a part of the national reforms gathered under the umbrella of “the Curriculum for Excellence” the Scottish Qualifications Authority (the SQA) has been reviewing all of the qualifications taken by Scottish school children. The biggest planned change is to exams in S4 during session 2013-14 – which will affect pupils currently in S3.
Hutchesons’ Grammar School has its own well established, broad and challenging curriculum. While not opposed to the Curriculum for Excellence, we do not follow it. In terms of qualifications, the priority for every department in the school is to ensure that our pupils are well prepared to take Highers in S5 and then either Advanced Highers or A Levels in S6.
In S5 the majority of pupils take 5 or 6 Highers. To prepare S4 pupils for that, departments currently enter them for either Standard Grade or Intermediate 2 exams at the end of S4, depending on which they feel provides the best grounding in terms of content and skills in each subject. In a minority of subjects, pupils do not take an external examination in S4 at all, to allow them to start on Higher work early (this is known as ‘bypass’).
The reforms designed to replace both Standard Grade Credit and Intermediate 2 exams will lead to a new qualification called ‘National 5’. This new qualification is intended to reflect the best features of the two qualifications that it will replace.
As an independent school, we have the choice to enter our pupils for the examinations which we think best fit our curriculum. Although Standard Grades will disappear immediately, for the time being there will be the option of entering pupils for examinations in either the old Intermediate 2 or the new National 5 qualifications. There will still be the option of bypass.
Right now it is still too early to confirm exactly which exam each subject will opt for, because the details of National 5s are only beginning to become available. There is still plenty of time, since work done as part of our own curriculum in S3 will be an essential part of both exams. We can confirm, however, that bypass will continue to happen in Geography, Modern Studies and History, and for the top half of the year group in Mathematics.
It is likely that a mixed economy of Intermediate 2, National 5 and bypass will be the position for most pupils in S4 in session 2013-14.
You can be assured that all our pupils will be well prepared for whichever exam we do choose, and that we will choose wisely, with the underlying principle remaining the same – ‘which exam will be the best preparation for Higher?’.