Scottish Reforms since the 1980s
Louise Hayward and Ernie Spencer
University of Glasgow
Thank you for the invitation
Outline of reflections
An overview of systems and developments in Scotland in the contexts of:
•Scotland's curriculum changes and and their relationship to qualifications
•Managing a system designed for Scotland but different from rest of UK
not able to conceive of an alternative
how else to align vision, curriculum and assessment
•Implications for schools, teachers, students and policy decision makers
Before 1980s
S4 (age 16)
Ordinary (O) Grade
(Originally c. 30%
of pupils; later 5060%)
Higher (H) Grade
(Key qualification for
entry to 4-yr degree
in a Scottish
Higher (H) Grade
Certificate of 6th
Year Studies
Late 1980s – 2000
Standard Grade
Standard (S) Grade Higher (H) Grade
(All pupils)
Higher (H) Grade
2000 – 2014
“Higher Still”
S grade as above
Access 1, 2, 3
Intermediate 1, 2
Intermediate 1. 2
Higher (H) Grade
Higher Grade
From 2014
New National
National 3, 4
National 5
National 4, 5
Certificate of 6th
Year Studies
Advanced Higher
National 5
Advanced Higher
Standard Grade and Higher Still
• Purposes, intentions, nature of assessment
• Benefits
• Issues and problems
New Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) National Qualifications
• Will they work better?
Common Pattern
• Vision
• Curriculum and Assessment Action
• Progress towards vision
• Problems of Alignment
• New Vision
Standard Grade - vision
Issue - social justice
- curriculum and assessment for all
Curriculum Munn Report (Scottish Education Department, 1977)
•Curriculum derived from society’s claims, theory of knowledge (notably
Hirst, 1969) and pupils’ psychology and needs
•4 key aims for all pupils
• Knowledge/understanding of self and social and physical
• Cognitive, personal and psycho-motor skills
• Affective development in a wide range of attitudes
• Preparation for adult life and social competence
Standard Grade
Modes and Courses approach: “balance, choice and flexibility”
•Subject elements
– identified key knowledge/processes (including significant emphasis on application,
problem-solving, practical and oral work, finding and using subject-relevant info ...)
“The quality of learning, the teaching process and the development of skills are more
important than the quality of factual content required for recall.” (SGROAG, 1986)
– Influenced pedagogy as well as giving basis for reporting achievements
– Eg, English: reading, writing, talking (including listening)
Geography: knowledge and understanding, enquiry skills
Differentiated courses to meet different needs/levels of challenge:
Foundation - worthwhile experiences for pupils of modest achievement
General - majority of pupils able to have high level of achievement
Credit - nature and rate of study better related to Higher
Teachers planning of courses (typically comprising “units”) based on course elements,
validated through LA arrangements
Standard Grade
Assessment (Dunning Report, SED 1977, and reinforced in Munn)
• Curriculum/assessment indissolubly linked, “Assessment as Part of Teaching”
central to strategy; teachers’ professional judgement and discussion with pupils central;
not be frequent summative assessment or exam practice tasks; All working groups of
researchers, policy makers and practitioners
• Grade-related Criteria (GRC): statements of what should be learned and touchstones
for assessment – developed by subject working groups who planned curriculum
• Influence of Pupils in Profile project/report (SCRE, 1977), which emphasised the
importance of teachers’ knowledge of individual pupils in describing what they know and
can do
• Descriptive – grades represent summary descriptions of achievements
• Exemplification provided by Exam Board (eventually)
• Teacher assessment
Standard Grade - route to misalignment
Overly complex
•Teacher assessment: estimated grades for each element based on wide range
of work submitted to exam board (SEB 19 point scale)
Workload rather than learning focus leading to oversimplification
– Original 50-50 internal/external weighting (Dunning) only partially implemented in trial stages of
S Grade (Foundation level only): major concerns among teachers re workload and complexity
of assessment
– Courses written for rather than by teachers (at their request)
Standard Grade
Benefits (see Simpson, 2006)
• Significant advancement of professional knowledge and expertise through involvement
of teachers in subject working groups, making internal and external assessment tasks
and examination marking
• By comparison with O Grade, very much better courses and experiences, in particular
for lower attaining pupils
• Significantly improved exam tasks, better reflecting desired learning
• Methods developed by SEB to incorporate criterion referencing in processes of
marking/grading/standardisation/ensuring reliability (though to different extents in
different subjects: eg, much more direct use of GRC in English than maths)
• Qualifications for a much bigger proportion of each cohort and across a wider range of
subjects (Raffe, 2003)
• Some reduction in gender and social class differences through obligatory access for all
to worthwhile broad curriculum – girls came to attain more S Grade awards than boys,
including at Credit; low attainment of working class pupils raised considerably (yet gap
low/high attainers , eg in PISA, still significant by comparison with some countries)
“Higher Still” National Qualifications
Issue - social justice
- curriculum and assessment for all
• Part of gradual social justice movement in Scottish education (comprehensive
schools, raising of school leaving age, S Grade, development of FE Action
Plan (SED, 1983)
• Concern about “2-term dash” to H Grade in S5 plus S6 problems re Higher
Gold Standard
• Academic and Vocational Parity of Esteem
• Perception of unco-ordinated, inadequate upper school provision for both
higher and lower attainers
• Howie Committee (1990) to review courses, assessment and certification for
“Higher Still” National Qualifications
Howie Report (SOED, 1992)
Wide consultation and study of several European systems
Opposed to modularisation as fragmenting and trivialising learning and leading
to over-assessment and assessment-driven learning
“European Solution”
•Twin track ( transfer between tracks):
– ScotCert – academic subjects, core skills and vocational elements; 60% of cohort;
up to 2 years;
– ScotBac –; mainly academic; 40% of cohort; up to 3 years; standards in individual
subjects going well beyond H Grade level
Consultation on Howie
2 clear outcomes
•Need for change
•Decisive rejection of twin track approach
“Higher Still” National Qualifications
Higher Still: Opportunity for All (Scottish Office, 1994)
• Single system of levels for academic and vocational qualifications: merger of
SEB and SCOTVEC as SQA (1996)
• 7 levels of National Qualifications (Access 1, 2, 3, Intermediate 1, 2, Higher,
Advanced Higher) – unified “climbing frame” aiming to give opportunities for
progress to all
• Continuing use of criterion-referencing/GRC at all levels
• SCOTVEC and SEB assessment arrangements combined: 40 hour
modules/units, internally assessed (ungraded) + external exam (graded)
covering (typically) 160-hour course consisting of 3 units + 40 hours course
integration and exam preparation – NOT a combination of internal and
external assessment: two separate hurdles, both of which must be cleared
• About 50% of external Intermediate exams have some coursework element
• No consultation/debate on assessment and reporting principles and
practicalities – apparent influence of “merger politics” the main determining
“Higher Still” the route to misalignment
•Overly complex, political timeframe and workload
• Significant increase in internal assessment demand on both pupils and teachers;
National Assessment Bank (NAB) unit tests (huge initial task; no process of trialling/validating or updating/
expanding the bank) – led to much teacher/union dissatisfaction
• Problems facing SQA: not enough markers; more limited processes of validation and reliability across
markers; major admin difficulties linking individual info on pupils’ internal unit awards with external exam
performance → public disaster with first NQs (2000): failure to deliver results to thousands of pupils (See
Paterson 2000 and Raffe et al 2002)
• Review leading to oversimplification
Access 3, Intermediate 1 and 2 available in parallel with S Grade Foundation, General and Credit
Many schools/LAs chose to use these NQ qualifications because they were seen as providing clear,
easily managed progression steps (one year per level)
“Higher Still” National Qualifications
Benefits (mainly derived from Simpson, 2006, and Raffe, 2003)
• Increased full-time participation in S5/6 at appropriate levels by pupils with
middle and low S Grade/Intermediate achievements (further extending
gradually increasing participation over many years)
• Increased total volume of SQA qualifications achieved; improved
performance in passing 3 Highers (extending continuous improvement
since 1987); however, pupils attaining middle and lower S Grade or
Intermediate results still lag behind similar pupils in many countries
• Success of pupils with learning difficulties in mainstream curriculum and
qualifications system (typically at Access 1, 2, 3 and sometimes Int 1)
New National Qualifications from 2014
Vision - the educated Scot
• Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment as one - “Capacities” (successful learners,
confident individuals, responsible citizens, effective contributors)
• Breadth, depth, challenge, application
• Learning from curricular areas, interdisciplinary work, ethos/life of school,
opportunities (in and out of school) for personal achievement
• Assessment for learning throughout
• Literacy and numeracy the responsibility of all teachers
• Promotion of teacher professionalism and responsibility in course design,
pedagogy and assessment
New National Qualifications from 2014
• Less prescription and more personalisation and choice in the qualifications
• Added Value Assessments (often projects in aspects of the course selected
by students)
• At National 5, more coursework contributing to the final grade (so exams
should be shorter)
• Fundamental features and characteristics of the Higher and Advanced Higher
Courses preserved and revised to reflect CfE ideas
• New Units in Literacy and Numeracy (originally meant to be taught/assessed
in cross-curricular contexts, but in fact now embedded in English/Gàidhlig and
maths courses)
New National Qualifications from 2014
National 4/5 Assessment (H and AH to follow for 2015, 2016)
National 4
• 3 internally assessed units + internal Added Value Unit (typically a selfselected project)
National 5
• 3 internally assessed units + external Added Value Unit (either exam or
project work submitted to SQA)
Information available at
New National Qualifications from 2014
Three packages of assessment support for Units (National 2 to National 5)
• Each pack provides details of an assessment task or tasks; shows approaches to
generating evidence; and shows how the evidence that is gathered can be judged
against the Unit Outcomes and Assessment Standards
– Unit-by-Unit approach – the Unit assessment support is for each Unit in a Course. Normally it will
cover all of the Outcomes and Assessment Standards.
– Combined approach – this supports the use of a combined approach to assessment which can be a
very effective approach to gathering evidence for assessment across a number of Units of a Course.
– Portfolio approach – this supports a portfolio approach to assessment by providing information on
judging evidence for assessment normally covering all Outcomes and Assessment Standards for all
the Units in a Course.
• The packs do not have marks or threshold/cut-off scores; they have an explanation
of how assessment judgements are to be made against Assessment Standards.
Specimen Question Papers (National 5)
• Examples of the types and scope of questions that will be used in the exam.
• Marking Instructions (outline the marking principles for the exam show how the
questions in the specimen paper should be marked)
New National Qualifications from 2014
Will these arrangements promote the kinds of learning CfE hopes to
Will they give teachers enough professional support to develop assessment
Do they change significantly enough the disadvantageous aspects of
Higher Still?
What is the “worst case scenario”?
• How easy will it be for LAs/schools/teachers to predict assessment
requirements and continue to “teach to the test”?
•Can anything be done to avoid this ? - the alignment of research, policy
and practice - the Assessment at Transition Project
NAB – National Assessment Bank (for Higher Still Qualifications)
SCOTVEC – Scottish Vocational Education Council
SCRE – Scottish Council for Research in Education
SEB – Scottish Examination Board
SED – Scottish Education Department
SGROAG – Standard Grade Review of Assessment Report
SOED – Scottish Office Education Department
SQA – Scottish Qualifications Authority
Hayward, L., Boyd, B., MacBride, G. and Spencer, E., 2009. Just making them think: a tension between teaching and
assessment in the high stakes stages. Glasgow. Scottish Qualifications Authority (Research Report 13.).
Hirst, P., 1969. The Logic of the Curriculum, Journal of Curriculum Studies, Vol 1, No 2, pp 142-158
Paterson, L., 2000. The Exam Debacle and the Way Ahead for Scottish Education. Edinburgh, Mainstream Publishing.
Raffe, D., Howieson, C. and Tinklin, T., 2002. The Scottish educational crisis of 2000: an analysis of the policy process
of unification, Journal of Educational Policy, Vol 17, No 2, pp 167-185.
Raffe, D., 2003. CES Findings on Participation and Attainment Scottish Education, in Scottish Education (2nd edition):
Post-devolution, Eds Bryce, T. G. K. and Humes , W. Edinburgh; Edinburgh University Press.
Scottish Council for Research in Education, 1977. Pupils in Profile: Making the Most of Teachers’ Knowledge of Pupils.
Edinburgh, Hodder and Stoughton.
Scottish Education Department, 1977 a. The Structure of the Curriculum in the Third and Fourth Years of Secondary
Education in Scotland (Munn Report). Edinburgh, HMSO.
Scottish Education Department, 1977 b. Assessment for All: Report of the Committee to Review Assessment in the Third
and Fourth Years of Secondary Education in Scotland (Dunning Report). Edinburgh, HMSO.
Scottish Education Department, 1983. 16-18s in Scotland: an Action Plan. Edinburgh, HMSO.
Scottish Office Education Department, 1992. Upper Secondary Education in Scotland: Report of the Committee to
Review Curriculum and Examinations in the Fifth and Sixth Years of Secondary Education in Scotland (Howie Report).
Edinburgh, HMSO.
Scottish Office, 1994. Higher Still: Opportunity for All. Edinburgh, The Stationery Office.
Simpson, M., 2006. Assessment. Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press (Policy and Practice in Education series).
Standard Grade Review of Assessment Group (SGROAG), 1986. Assessment in Standard Grade Courses: Proposals
for Simplification. Edinburgh, Scottish Education Department.

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