PUPILS are being denied the opportunity to study the works of William Shakespeare because of school red tape, a teacher has warned.

Naomi Westwood, who teaches at Lochaber High in Fort William, said new internal assessments introduced by Scotland’s exam body had forced her to scrap the study of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth this year.

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In a letter to The Herald she blames the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) for the problem and said efforts to reduce internal assessments for National 4 and National 5 exams had so far not been successful.

Ms Westwood, said: “I am writing to convey my despair at the utter failure of those in power in education to protect pupils from the worst excesses of the SQA imposition of pointless assessment and bureaucracy throughout the senior school.

“For the first time in my years of teaching English to S4 pupils I had to face the painful realisation that there was no way we could find time to read Macbeth because we had internal assessments and exams to slog through. So, instead of Shakespeare, we did so-called listening and reading assessments which ask them pointless and baffling questions. I wonder if some of them will ever get the chance to study Shakespeare again?”


Ms Westwood said the problem was exacerbated by timetabling issues introduced under the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) reforms which have seen seen many schools reduce the number of subjects on offer from eight to six. Those which have retained eight are struggling to fit all the previous content into the time available.

She added: “Our pupils are being cheated out of their birthright to a real education. The SQA could simply listen to teachers and drop all the unnecessary internal assessments.”

The concerns were raised just months after teachers from the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) backed industrial action after talks on reducing their workload failed to reach a solution.

The move by the EIS comes after long-running concerns over the amount of extra work involved in the implementation of CfE with significant changes to exams and more classroom assessments.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said: “Curriculum for Excellence promised a decluttering of that curriculum to allow more space and time for teaching and learning but this is not the experience of most teachers. 

“Tackling workload and bureaucracy is essential if teachers are to be “freed-up” to teach. Secondary schools have been swamped by workload and assessment pressures, generated primarily by the new SQA Qualification framework. 

“Teachers in all sectors are experiencing increasing frustration due to “paper chasing”, excessive tracking and assessment, workload pressure and increasing class sizes.”

An SQA  spokesman said: “We remain committed to the successful implementation of the National Qualifications. We work closely with councils, schools, colleges, teaching unions and national partners to ensure quality assurance of the qualifications is proportionate while maintaining national standards. We also provide support for teachers and lecturers through our understanding standards programme and have received positive feedback from those sessions. 

“We will continue to identify improvements that can be implemented over the short and medium term. We have also been gathering evidence about the initial implementation of the new NQs through fieldwork visits and through our National Qualifications Support Team to identify general and subject specific  issues. This evidence will be used to inform our actions to address these issues.”