Summary 

  • BAPC continue to work to safeguard the right for our school to offer up to 8 National 5 subjects for qualifications in S4 for those pupils for whom this is appropriate.
  • In May 2012, Aberdeenshire Council revised its implementation policy declaring that 6 subjects in S4 would become the norm across all its secondary schools, including Banchory, overturning a previous agreement which enabled our current S3s to study 8 N5 subjects in 2013-14.
  • Despite many meetings and discussions since, involving other schools who share our belief that this will disadvantage our children relative to those from schools in Scotland continuing to offer 7 or 8 subjects in S4, attempts to reverse the change have thus far proved fruitless.
  • Efforts continue and on June 17th, Dr Alasdair Allan, The Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, will attend an open meeting with Aberdeenshire parents at the theatre in the Aboyne Community Centre. We hope that as many Banchory parents as possible will attend and express their concerns and frustration with the current situation.

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Banchory Academy Parent Council have been working with our Senior Management Team for the last 3 years regarding the introduction of the new level 4 and 5 qualifications.  In 2010/11 parents expressed concern when it appeared that only 6 subjects might be offered for assessment at N5 level during S4.  However after consulting Aberdeenshire Council EL&L, Education Scotland and the Secretary of State for Education we were reassured that this was neither a centrally imposed mandate nor an expectation of the Scottish Government.  Thus in 2011 Banchory Academy developed an S3/4 timetable model which will enable the current S3s to study 8 subjects in their 2013-14 S4 year.


In May 2012, Aberdeenshire EL&L unilaterally introduced new guidelines for secondary schools across the Shire which made only 6 subjects in S4 the norm irrespective of the needs or expectations of individual schools, pupils or parents.  There was no prior consultation with parents, no educational rationale was offered for the change and it was left to schools to inform parents of the revised expectations. 

The news was very badly received at schools like Banchory Academy and significant dialogue ensued which culminated in several parent councils making representation to the Aberdeenshire EL&L Committee in December, details of which are available elsewhere on the BAPC website (see CfE Campaign, So what happened next?).


Despite several measures being agreed at that committee meeting, no progress has been made on the central issue of the number of S4 subjects to be studied at individual schools and the following is a brief update on subsequent events.


Our December 2012 survey on CfE Senior Phase Implementation in Aberdeenshire attracted 449 responses.  Of these, 90% wanted their children to continue to have the opportunity to study up to 8 examinable subjects in S4.


In January 2013, in accordance with parents’ clearly expressed wishes in the survey and from consultations run by the school, Banchory Academy submitted to Aberdeenshire Council a timetable model offering 11 subjects in S3 and up to 8 subjects in S4.  After review by the Council, the 11 subject structure for S3 was accepted and has been implemented.  Current S2 pupils have now all chosen their 11 subjects.  However, the 8 subject S4 timetable model has not been approved and discussions continue with Aberdeenshire Council seeking to understand why not and identify how it might be amended in order to be deemed acceptable.


A Working Group (WG) comprising representatives of the Council, head teachers, parents and Education Scotland has met 3 times since being established at the December EL&L Committee Meeting.  Parents believed the purpose of the WG was to allow their views to be heard and discussed with EL&L officials with a view to changing the Aberdeenshire implementation policy.  However, it became obvious at the latest WG meeting (Thursday May 23rd) that the WG will not, in fact, be able to influence policy.  EL&L have confirmed they knowingly developed the policy without seeking the views of parents – the lack of consultation was not an oversight – and see the role of the WG as merely discussing how it is being implemented across the Shire.  The policy itself is not up for negotiation.


Of the 17 secondary schools in Aberdeenshire, 11 have already implemented EL&L’s preferred 6 subject S4 model.  The remaining 6 schools are still developing, or trying to develop, S4 models for their 2014/15 academic year (i.e. the current S2s) and beyond but being frustrated by their inability to simultaneously meet the wishes of their parents and the expectations of the Council.


Ian Stirling has been seconded to Aberdeenshire Council from the Management Team at an Aberdeenshire academy.  Ian’s area of expertise is in timetabling and his role is to support schools with the implementation of CfE as a whole with a particular focus on the Senior Phase, specifically with regard to timetabling.  Ian attended the latest Banchory Academy Parent Council (BAPC) meeting on Thursday May 2nd.  During the meeting Ian told the BAPC that in many Councils across Scotland, 7 subject S4 models are becoming the norm.


On Tuesday May 7th Ian met with members of the Banchory Academy Management Team to look at timetable structures.  Nothing conclusive has come from this first meeting but discussions are ongoing.  However both at the BAPC meeting and subsequently, Mr Stirling has indicated that he does not believe an 8 subject S4 model can be accommodated within Aberdeenshire’s Senior Phase policy, despite this not directly specifying the number of subjects an Academy can offer.


This is a concern since Scottish Government guidelines indicate that the decision about the number of subjects to be taught in S4 should be taken by schools following consultation with parents and pupils, involving, but not being artificially constrained by, their local authority.  This seems to be happening in other parts of Scotland: the BAPC has gathered a list of schools which will be offering 7 or 8 examinable subjects to their S4 pupils in 2014/15.


The BAPC believes it remains the wish of the school’s parents that our school be allowed to implement an S4 timetable which enables pupils to study up to 8 subjects to National 5 level where this is appropriate for the individual and is continuing to work hard to achieve this outcome.


Due in part to the pressure we have been exerting, Dr Alasdair Allan, The Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, has accepted an invitation from the Aberdeenshire branch of the National Parent Forum of Scotland to meet with parents from Aberdeenshire.  The event will take place on the evening of 17th June 2013 at the theatre in Aboyne Community Centre.  Full details and how to book to attend will be available shortly and will be posted on this site.


It is vital that parents take this opportunity to engage with Dr Allan and we hope as many Banchory parents as possible will attend and express their concerns and frustration with the current situation.