Difficult decisions

We didn’t get the Dunbar house – but some good ex friends did!  We have warned them not to expect good behaviour at their housebelhaven-bay2.jpg warming party. Our house hunting has been prompted by trying to buy a house along the road before it went on the open market. Unfortunately we weren’t the only ones to have that idea but it has made us take the mental leap from putting up with our comfortable but crowded space to moving.  House hunting may now start in earnest.

However, it’s not quite as simple as just moving house.  I spoke to Dunbar Grammar during the week to sound out their thoughts on the children.  Assuming the school could take them, what would they do with our eldest if he arrived in S4 having already done his Standard Grades? The Depute Head went away to think about this and came back with the advice that we should pull him out of Standard Grades this year and let him sit them next year with their S4.  So no pressure then. 

A few thoughts on this.   In my ignorance, I hadn’t realised you couldn’t resit Standard Grades.  It’s less than 2 months to the start of the exams and whilst Guineapig 1 should be targetting straight 1s and 2s, he looks more likely to get 2/3/4, so we need to provide some serious structure and motivation for the next couple of months.  The slightest whiff of not doing the exams and any motivation will vanish before a puff of smoke can form. The Course Choice booklet came home on Friday and, while I can’t profess to having understood most of the first two pages of explanation (a red pen wouldn’t go amiss, guys), it was clear from the subject pages that the school will be looking for 1s and 2s as entry for Highers.  Will they be doing Intermediate 2 in S4 and then Highers in S5? Will they spread the Higher course over 2 years? Will it depend on the individual students? Your guess is as good as mine. 

We might find the house of our dreams tomorrow; more likely it will take a few months and whilst we would like to go to Dunbar we could potentially end up anywhere in East Lothian or the Borders (although there are a few enclaves we definitely won’t be heading for).  The prospect of GP1 having another year to tackle his Standard Grades is quite appealing but perhaps the most sensible option is to carry on as we are and keep him at Ross until the end of S4.  He could then, one would hope, slot into S5 somewhere, assuming course choices would allow more or less the same subjects.  It’s really not an easy decision but, if we were going to pull him out of exams this year, we would have to do that NOW.  As I said earlier, no pressure!


5 thoughts on “Difficult decisions

  1. Sorry to hear you didn’t get the house. There is one waiting for you, I’m sure. Once you start looking things do take on their own dynamic.

    Our school no longer does standard grade English. So far we are starting to feel the Intermediate is a better preparation for Higher

    Why do schools do standard grade at S3? Interested to know the rationale on this. What have you heard gpm?

  2. While Intermediate 2 is a better preparation for Higher in English, this is not true of all subjects. In Maths precisely the opposite is true and unless Int 2 is supplemented by some additional work it does not prepare pupils well for Higher. However, that would not be such an issue if a 2 year Higher is being undertaken as seems to be the case at Ross.

    Although Ross HIgh is the only school in East Lothian offering early Standard Grades there are many schools across the country which also opted for this. Sorry I’m not sure I’ve got this URL entered properly but it does help explain why some schools have opted for this.


    There are other references to this as well as many other schools carrying out this process. Is it a good thing? I don’t know. Unfortunately it takes time for the results to be seen and all we can do in the meantime is support our children who are going through this trial. I suspect that for the most academic it will make little difference (except that I’m told they will sit 6 subjects – is this true, usually only 5?) whereas the less academic youngsters will have the chance to try Highers at a pace rather slower than the usual 2 term dash. As for those leaving school at 16 – I’m not clear what they will be doing in 4th year.

    I can certainly see how moving to another school could cause real problems in trying to tie up the teaching happening in the school with the current learning stage of the child.

    Sorry for rambling. This is a topic which causes a huge amount of debate but I have to say that for my child who didn’t take well to the transition, the opportunity to choose subjects was a real positive one. Whether sitting the exams in third year will be so positive is yet to be seen.


  3. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ve been finding this all rather difficult as it really looks like our eldest, unless he has a remarkable turn around in the next couple of months, will get lower grades than he could potentially get at S4. Trouble is, there’s no way of knowing is there? He could equally well mess up in S4. I’m a bit concerned that, if he doesn’t get Credits this year, the school will restrict his choice of Highers. If we move schools it could make matters worse – or it could improve things.

    I was interested by these paragraphs in the article you linked to:-

    “John Aitken, headteacher of Keith Grammar, was optimistic about his school’s initiative, despite the superior performance of the S4 pupils achieving Standard grade Credit and General awards. This was the first year in which S3 pupils had been presented for Standard grade and the school regards the project as being in its early stages.

    Mr Aitken pointed out that, by the time the third-year group reach the end of fourth year, their cumulative total of awards will be greater than it would otherwise have been – including Intermediate passes. He declared: “We are not doing this for the statistics. Some of our pupils are taking vocational courses -rural skills, motor mechanics, care and hairdressing – and they won’t feature in Standard grade 1s and 2s.

    “It is also important to remember that our pupils will have two years in which to take their Highers, an enormous improvement.”

    It seems relevant as this year’s S3 are the first year to do this at Ross, and the staff are clearly still finding their feet with it. There was a big difference in overall performance between the S3 & S4 years at Keith. We just have to hope that this year’s guineapigs survive to do well at Highers (assuming they’re allowed to choose subjects despite SG results), and that maybe everything will be alright for future years.

  4. I hope you don’t think I’m inundating you with references but this topic came up again today and made me think further.

    I had braved the trains to Glasgow to attend the Maths Reference Group and one of my colleagues was talking about an identical situation to yours in a different authority. This set me looking for some more info to try to clarify this for myself. As I expected it was not that straightforward. At this time of night I haven’t digested all of this but you might like to have a read through these





    I don’t think they necessarily answer the question “is it a good thing” because parents probably won’t be convinced unless there is evidencs of improvement and that is not yet available on a large scale and those who think it is positive still seem convinced.

    I have to say I have sympathy with the view (in the first article) that our pupils are overtested. My child (in 2nd year) within another week will have completed 10 different tests in 3 weeks and is showing signs of being harrassed by tests.

  5. Hi jenni

    Thanks for these – I’ve had a quick scan of them. I really don’t know whether I think this is all a good thing or not. On the one hand, I think they’re doing exams too early and are narrowing the syllabus too soon. On the other hand, two years for Highers would seem to be a good thing. I was told at the school today (choosing Highers – more of this in a separate post) that they’re expecting the S3s to outperform the S4s. I suppose part of the problem for parents is that the school has to look at the good of the group as a whole whereas the parent is concerned with the individual and the two things are not necessarily the same thing at all. (Wish I could type t-h-e in the right order – I’ve just had to change all of them from t-e-h.) Perhaps they should just stay on at school for another year and tehn there’d be plenty of time for everything.


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