§ Mrs. McCurley
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a further statement on future arrangements for standard grade examinations in the light of the teachers associations' continuing boycott of curriculum development.
§ Mr. George Younger
I announced on 2 April, at columns543–44], that I had decided, following advice from the Scottish Examination Board and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities that ordinary grade examinations in English, mathematics and arithmetic should be available as an option in 1986 for pupils who started standard grade courses in August 1984 and whom it was no longer realistic to expect to be assessed on the 392W basis of standard grade. I made it clear that standard grade phase 1 assessments would take place in 1986 as planned and I confirm that again now.
A number of parents and others have made representations to me about the importance of an early decision on examinations in 1987 to protect the interests of pupils entering S3 next month who will wish to know whether the target at the end of their two-year course is to be standard grade or ordinary grade. The Scottish Education Department has therefore written today to the Scottish Examination Board, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, and the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, to propose that the same arrangements should apply in 1987 as in 1986, that is, that ordinary grade examinations should be available as an alternative to standard grade phase 1 examinations in 1987.
I have asked the three bodies for their urgent comments on this proposal so that a final decision may be taken as early as possible in the new term to relieve the uncertainty which parents are experiencing about the courses which their children will follow. I recognise that the holding of both standard grade and ordinary grade examinations for a further year will have implications for higher grade and post-higher examinations in English and mathematics and I have asked the SEB to take account of the need to run these examinations in both unrevised and revised forms in 1988.
The Government remain in principle fully committed to the development and full implementation of standard grade courses, which will lead to more effective and relevant teaching for pupils of all abilities. The largest Scottish teachers union has however made clear its intention to continue the curricular boycott even after a satisfactory settlement of the current pay dispute is reached.