This week marked the start of the a level results being issued whilst over a week ago the Scottish higher results were issued. And if as predicted, it leads to a greater focus on the number and type of candidates gaining entry to university, is it now time for a rethink?
Interestingly, English students go to school to collect their results, knowing that if things don’t go quite as planned there is support at hand with advice and back up plans able to be put swiftly in place. Conversely, the Scottish system has evolved where most young people receive a text or letter through the post. Any support and advice is generally provided by skills development Scotland rather than school based staff. Although most schools will retain a support offering for students to discuss course choice changes and provide advice.
However, as various announcements are made by political parties about the suitability of the university entries system and suggestions made on how to improve it. Labour propose students receiving an offer based on actual grades once the exam results have been published. Presumably, this would lead to university terms starting later or exams being brought forward into March or April to allow time for results, offers and university places to be accepted.
But isn’t there a better way? Should students who want to go to university simply be allowed to attend, assuming they have provided evidence that they can attain. Maybe not necessarily requiring a grade to join. This would mean universities changing their competitive approach to higher education. However, would quality be reduced? Or would students from disadvantaged backgrounds be more able to gain entry to university?
Would this lead to the suggested devaluing of the National 4 qualification which has a pass/fail approach. I’m not sure it would. I think that have an external, final exam was retained then we would retain the integrity of the qualification.
Would this also ensure that all students continue working hard right up until the end. Reports suggest that some students do not exert the same effort when they receive an unconditional offer. This is despite the fact that the university is making the offer based on the application submitted and the subjects studied being detailed on the application.
Overall, we should consider refocusing the timings of exams, results and university offers so that offers are received towards the end of the academic year. I am not sure the Scottish education system is quite ready yet for a pass/fail approach to higher and subsequent entry into university.