HC Deb 04 February 1985 vol 72 cc430-1W
Mr. Corrie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what arrangements the Scottish examination board proposes to make in the light of the instructions given to Scottish teachers by their unions to disrupt certain procedures associated with examinations for the Scottish Certificate of Education in 1985.

Mr. Younger

I am aware that certain teachers unions are threatening to disrupt administrative and other procedures associated with the 1985 Scottish certificate of education examinations at ordinary and higher grade and the certificate of sixth year studies. I would strongly deplore the taking of such unprecedented action which can only be designed to damage the vital interests of pupils themselves. The teachers should withdraw from all their current action in the light of the way forward I have offered through the Scottish joint negotiating committee (secondary education); and I would urge all teachers in any event to refrain from the extremely serious escalation of their action which would be involved in striking at the examination system.

I nevertheless recognise that pupils and their parents need urgent re-assurance about the prospects for the 1985 SCE examinations in the light of the teachers threats. Following discussions in which my Department has been fully involved, the Scottish Examination Board have today issued a circular to schools and local authorities in Scotland (copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House) giving advice on the conduct of the 1985 examinations. We shall also be placing advertisements in the press from tomorrow. The key elements of the approach being taken by the Scottish Examination Board and the Government are as follows: the Government will do everything possible in consultation with the board and with the local authorities to ensure that this year's SCE examinations go ahead as planned; exceptionally for this year, the Scottish Examination Board will generally be prepared to make awards based on the external written examinations only. Candidates will not be penalised if marks for oral, practical or other internally assessed work are not submitted as a result of action by teachers; but where such marks are available and would improve the overall award they will be used. The Board may however have to make special arrangements in certain subjects, in particular where the practical element accounts for a major proportion of the total mark, and will issue further advice as soon as possible; the Board cannot however make allowance in marking for any loss of teaching time before the examination; examinations reflect actual performance, not potential. To adopt any other course would seriously prejudice the quality and acceptability of the Scottish certificate of education; normal appeal arrangements will apply; and in any event candidates who do not obtain satisfactory marks in any subject this year will be able as usual to resit the examination in 1986. This provision includes inter alia those candidates who are sitting English, mathematics and arithmetic this year; and pupils who are in S4 this year and are sitting the certificate of secondary education examinations run by the English examining boards, in English and mathematics, will also be permitted to sit O grade in these subjects in 1986; schools will be kept informed of any further changes in the arrangements for the 1985 examinations resulting from the teachers' actions.

I believe that the revised arrangements the SEB are adopting will provide equitably for the situation which will arise if teachers do indeed withhold co-operation from the 1985 examinations in the way suggested; and will maintain the standards of the Scottish certificate of education.

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