Is there anything more depressing than having to put away your stuff and turn your house into a show home? All that beautiful artwork the kids have done? Nope, that’s got to go away. Those family photos? Nope, box ’em up. All that useful clutter on the kitchen worksurfaces? Put it away – and then spend the next few days wondering where the bottle opener’s gone.
Yep, we’re selling our house. Escape Tunnel Bertie has been finished and we’re getting the hell out of Dodge. Or Scotland. Y’see, once upon a time the Scottish Government had the opportunity to revamp the education system, make it the best in the world. It was always highly regarded but they had the chance to really make it shine. The result of that is the “Curriculum for Excrement”. Sorry, that should’ve read “Curriculum for Excellence.”
It’s been working it’s way through the junior levels of education for the past decade, give or take, slowly getting it’s fingers into as many pies as possible. Now it’s being rolled out into Senior level and I’m worried. Instead of 8 Standard Grades studied over 2 years you get 7 (or 8, or 5 or 6 – postcode lottery time) National 5s. Or maybe National 4 depending on whether you’re considered book-smart or practical-smart. National 4s are internally assessed and you get a pass or a fail. N5 are graded A-D but if you fail your N5 you don’t get to fall back to the N4. Confused yet? Oh, yes, and N4/5 are only studied over 1 year.
You then get the New and Improved (and when you hear the presentations you can feel the capital letters) Highers. Up to 5 subjects studied for 1 year, the results of which determine your entry to University. But you don’t go after doing your Highers, you’ve got another year during which you’ve got to do something. Most people, I’m reliably informed, bum around and call it “6th Year Studies”. You can do Advanced Highers but only if you’re off to a really top University. Or an English one who’ll be looking for A-level results and not Highers.
|S1-3||Broad General Education|
|S4||Select GCSEs – 10 or 11 subjects|
|Select N4 or N4. Exam(s) at end of year|
|S5||Continue GCSEs, Exams in June||Select Highers, Exams at end of year|
|S6||Select A-Levels (3 or 4)||More Highers, 6th year Studies|
|S7||Finish A-Levels. Exams in June||There is no Year 7|
No wonder Scottish Univeristy courses are a year longer than English ones. My (not bad but not excellent) A-Level grades leapfrogged me into Year 2 of my degree at Edinburgh.
Oh, and then there’s a lot of socially inclusive waffle and bollocks about partnering with local industries and businesses, about not having to study books but including apprenticeships and the like in your assessments. About “the wider learner” and “transferrable skills”. Well guess what? I’m transferring my skills.
Taking my daughter as a case study. She’d rather like to do all 3 sciences for as long as possible. That’s just not possible under the new Scottish system. It was barely possible under the old but now it’s worse. The official advice from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (an organisation so technically skilled it’s advising users of it’s online systems not to upgrade from Internet Explorer 6 and not to use other browsers to access them) is to study Chemistry and Physics at N4/5 and then take Higher Biology, Chemistry and Physics, cramming all of N5 & Higher Biology into 1 year “because Biology’s easier.” Hell, Aberdeen University’s Biology course doesn’t even need you to have studied Biology to do the degree.
With 7 subjects at N4/5 – a number our wonderful local Council deem “Sufficient” (their exact word), you’ve not got a lot of choice. Curriculum for Excellence has 8 broad subject areas that pupils are expected to cover. But you’ve only got 7 subjects to do that in. So if you’ve got to take English, Maths and a Modern Foreign Language, that leaves you 4 as your actual choice.
This is a farce. It’s an education system that seems to have the sole purpose of trapping Scottish students in Scotland. And it’s only going to get worse once Independence goes through.
That’s been a bit of a rant. I’m sorry, I’m incensed by this whole debacle. I don’t want to leave Shetland! I love it up here. If it were CfE or Independence, I could just about stick it out. But both of them together coupled with a council who is congenitally incapable of making any decision whatsoever for fear of making themselves unpopular with someone? It’s an unholy trinity and I want nothing to do with it.
People at work have asked me, as an Englishman, if I’m in favour of Scottish Independence. They’re always surprised when I say yes. “But,” say I, “I’m going to be on the English side of the border when it happens.”