Is the variety of exam levels and fluctuating sitting ages in the British education system healthy? Would a simpler, more uniform system benefit students and teachers alike? Tricky questions to answer, but worth a try.
There is a huge amount of paperwork involved in registering as a teacher in Scotland, if one has qualified in England. I know this to be the case, as I’ve just come through the other end of the whole lengthy process. All qualification certificates need to be provided, plus official letters (on headed paper) from the institution at which you qualified, confirming the age range and subject that you are qualified to teach. You then need to provide references, and submit paperwork for a criminal records check, plus you need to find the transcripts of all teaching and HE qualifications… (I didn’t even know what a transcript was, much less that it would ever be an important document to have!). And as well as the hours spent on the phone chasing these documents (and don’t let me bore you on the additional trials of finding these documents if your degree was a joint-honours, because joint honours turns out to mean there are TWO sets of people to get through for each item of paperwork…), it will also cost you almost £200 to get your application through the process.
I admit that, whilst going through this administrative nightmare, I did wonder if it was all really necessary. I wondered if teaching up in Scotland was really all that different from teaching in England – after all, I’d moved only 300 miles. But, sure enough, it really IS that different. GCSEs, AS-levels and A2s don’t correspond exactly with the Standards, Highers and Advanced Highers that pupils in Scotland took last year – and the system here recently changed again, with the first cohort to undertake the new National Fives sitting their exams this summer.
The variety of exam types and qualifications within the British education system is much bigger than perhaps would be expected, and the sitting ages at which pupils take these exams fluctuate as well. This poses no problem for students (and teachers) who spend their whole school careers within the one system – but can make it very problematic for those who swap between the two. For those looking to recruit students into Further and Higher Education, training schemes or apprenticeships, the difference in systems can look bizarrely complex, too. Therefore, a more uniform system across the British education system might not make life easier for the majority of people – but it would for a significant minority. At the very least, a table comparing the qualifications from each system would be a good start…