Scotland’s new exams too tough on kids taking science


SCOTLAND’S new school exams are too tough on the sciences and risk putting students off the subject, according to teachers.

This year’s National Qualifications shakeup has seen fewer good marks in physics than in arts and social science subjects.

Research by science teachers suggests a pass rate over 85% for students who did not take any science subjects this year.

But students who did tackle subjects such as physics and biology managed a pass rate of only 55%.

Stuart Farmer, the coordinator for the institute of Physics’ teacher Network said: “Many physics teachers are expressing concern that pupils appear to be scoring lower grades than in other subjects, including maths.

“This has not generally been the case previously.

“It would be unfortunate if the [new exams] reinforces the outdated myth that physics is a hard subject.”

Mr Farmer said said this would be especially unfortunate “at a time when the number of pupils studying physics has been on the increased and the sorts of knowledge and skills it can provide are in high demand”.

Analysis from one of the physics teachers on the forum analysed a typical cohort of students taking five or more National 5 subjects of: English, Maths, PE, Drama, German and Design and manufacture. The results found 86 per cent of candidates would pass.

However if the same cohort of students studied National 5 English, Maths, Physics, Biology, geography and French only 55 per cent would pass.

The concerns have been echoed on a leading online physics teacher form called Sputnik. One member in the form said: “assignment marking is all over the place”, with the SQA “taking a nit-picking, box-ticking approach to marking that means good quality pieces of work are being given absurdly low marks.”

The new National 4 and 5 qualifications replaced Standard Grades in a shake up of the structure of qualifications in Scotland.

The changes mean students taking the National 4 qualification will not sit an end of year exam and will instead be continually assessed throughout the year.

The more academically advanced National 5 qualification does however involve a final exam.

An SQA spokesperson said: “SQA takes it responsibility to uphold the high standards of Scottish qualifications very seriously. We have a very robust set of mechanisms in place to ensure that all our qualifications- including the new Nationals- offer an appropriate level of challenge for candidates.”


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