Teachers in Scottish schools will only find out the full details of how this year’s Higher history exam will be assessed today – nearly a quarter of the way through the school year.
Changes to Higher courses mean full specifics of some courses have not been made available to teachers until this month.
These include details of what the Higher is expected to cover and the specimen questions used to help teachers prepare their students for exams next year.
Pupils begin their Higher course before the start of the summer holidays, meaning months of teachers being unable to fully prepare pupils for what to expect in exams.
The Scottish Qualifications Authority said the timescales for the publication of course details had been known since the start of the year.
However, Dundee Lochee Labour councillor Michael Marra branded the situation a “national disgrace” after he was alerted to the issue by history teachers in the city, who will only see this year’s specimen questions today.
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He said: “Losing almost one third of the school year to teaching without a curriculum is a national scandal. The Scottish Government’s never ending curriculum chaos is harming the life chances of a generation of Scottish young people.
“To have teachers guessing what might be in the curriculum for months of the year is an example of the gross incompetence at the top of our national education system.
“The school year stated back in June and teachers have to work at full throttle to fit in the course content. How on earth are these students meant to catch up now?
“Education chiefs in Dundee are citing the constant turmoil in the secondary exams as one reason for declining results. We can see the impact in the numbers but behind the numbers are people who are missing opportunities that they will never get back.”
Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said teachers normally know the content of course and specimen questions in a year in advance.
He said the delays had been caused by the Scottish Government demanding immediate changes to Higher courses that have seen unit assessments scrapped and, in many cases, longer exams introduced.
Mr Searson said the delays make it harder for schools to teach pupils the necessary methods of correctly answering exam questions.
He said: “If you know the content and what questions pupils have to answer then you can get pupils to practice the whole way through the year.
“Having them so late doesn’t help anybody, the pupils or the teachers.
“These are major changes. The stress and workload of youngsters has been added to.”
An SQA spokesman said the specimen questions will be published today.
He said: “The timetable for publication of information relating to Higher changes was agreed and published in January 2018. Course specifications, specimen papers and course reports for all subjects will be available by the end of September, as per the agreed and published timetable.
“In some cases, subject information has been published earlier than previous years.
“The course specification for Higher History – the mandatory information that teachers and lecturers need to prepare and teach the course – was published on 30 April 2018, prior to the start of the 2018-19 session.
“It was clearly communicated that there would be no changes to the course content. The coursework task for Higher History was published in July. The specimen question paper for Higher History is due to be published by Friday September 28, which is to the agreed timescale.
“Schools, colleges, teachers and lecturers were informed of the publication schedule and availability of these documents through a number of channels, including an audio presentation in May, and the National Qualifications Support Team, made up of teachers, lecturers and subject associations.
“A number of events for Higher History teachers, where the changes to assessment will be covered, are to be held next month.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This is a matter for SQA.
“SQA has confirmed that the specifications, specimen papers and course reports for all subjects will be available by the end of September, as outlined in its timetable published in January.”