Fourth year school exams could be scrapped under new 'diploma' proposals

A review into Scotland's qualifications proposes grading coursework and volunteering over the exam diet.

Exams for fourth year pupils could be struck off the curriculum as part of radical new plans to overhaul Scotland’s education system.

A review is set to recommend 15 and 16-year-olds will be graded on coursework as well as other areas including volunteering as part of a “Scottish diploma”.

Fifth and sixth-year students would still sit their Highers, but National four and five tests would be scrapped.

The blueprint, produced by professor Louise Hayward of the University of Glasgow, is due to be published within the next fortnight.

In a submission to the review, Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said the number of young people leaving school with few formal qualifications was a “cause of concern,” branding the current system “narrow and reductive”.

However, they added the idea of a Scottish diploma must be an “inclusive award” and should not be reduced to a “second prize” leaver’s certificate should the proposals come into effect.

Mike Corbett, Scottish official for teaching union the NASUWT, said there were concerns over youngsters moving on to sit exams later in their school career.

“They want to move towards more of an exit type of exam,” he said.

“Because most kids no longer leave in fourth year, most of them would not do exams unless they were leaving. If you only have exams in sixth year, that has a lot of danger.

“It becomes very, very high stakes because you only ever sit one set of exams just before you leave and you have not had any practice.”

The review was announced by then-education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville in October 2021.

At the time, she said the review, along with planned education reforms, have a “clear purpose” in improving experiences and outcomes in education.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Professor Hayward’s final report will be published shortly.

“The recommendations will be carefully considered and the Scottish Government will respond in due course.”

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