"In a large city school in Scotland, a chemistry teacher nervously awaits the arrival of her next class. Helen (not her real name) is very aware the stakes are high for the Higher Chemistry students in her class – the grades they secure will prove critical in determining whether they can secure entry to university."
"Having taught for many years, this prospect wouldn’t normally cause Helen much anxiety, but this year is different. The class filing into the lab is a multicourse group, consisting not just of students studying the Higher course (typically ages 16–18), but also students studying for the National 5 chemistry course (typically ages 15–16)."
"With the examinable content of these courses being largely mutually exclusive, Helen has spent a lot of time planning lessons for this composite class. She has attempted to devise activities and strategies to ensure that both National 5 and Higher students can be offered equal levels of teacher support during each lesson."
"Despite her best efforts, she’s had no alternative but to offer extra tutorial sessions for these students during lunchtime and after school."
"A survey undertaken by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Education Division Regional Committee in Scotland shows that Helen’s predicament may be more common in Scotland’s schools than we previously thought."
"Multicourse classes and the challenges they present for teachers and students are an unintended consequence of the ways in which the Curriculum for Excellence – the most ambitious and wide-reaching Scottish educational reform in a generation – has been implemented in some schools."
What I can say about this is multicourse classes and the challenges they represent are not only due to unintended consequences of the way Curriculum for Excellence has been implemented. That may be part of the problem, but multicourses are also a consequence of teacher shortages.
Now shortages of science teachers are accepted as the norm, unfortunately, because those with science degrees have so many other options and little has been done to encourage these graduates into teaching.
As for the rest: "They`re doing their nut in," says my granddaughter who is in a multicourse history class (Mixed N5/higher) and gets on great with her teachers. I also know these teachers are doing their very best for her.
It`s just a pity about Curriculum for Excellence.
And the shortage of teachers in general !