Parents are turning their backs on state schools in Scotland because new reforms mean the curriculum isn’t challenging enough for bright pupils, a private school head says.
Cameron Wyllie says the new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), which critics say has dumbed down secondary schooling, is forcing the parents of brighter pupils to send their children into the private sector when they enter third year.
And Mr Wyllie said there had been a sharp increase in the amount of state school pupils applying to enter prestigious George Heriot’s in Edinburgh, where he has been headmaster since December 2014.
The CfE was introduced in 2010 for pupils between the ages of three and 18 and aims to create what the SNP Scottish Government describe as “successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors”.
One of the “reforms” brought in under the CfE means that pupils now wait until the end of S3 before deciding which options to take, rather than than the end of S2.
The move was designed to ease “exam pressure” on children – but many critics believe it simply holds back brighter pupils from forging on with their education.
And the influential Mr Wyllie believes radical changes should be made to the system altogether to allow brighter pupils to work towards a greater number of exams.
He said this was the reason behind the sharp increase in pupils applying for third year entry into the private sector.
At George Heriot’s, where the annual fees are £11,604, the number of S3 applicants has increased from 25 in 2015 to 45 in 2016.
The school, which was established in 1628 as George Heriot’s Hospital, currently has a roll of around 1,600 pupils.
Mr Wyllie said: “This, almost entirely, comes down to parental dissatisfaction with the broad general education now insisted upon in Scottish schools as part of the CfE package,” he said.
“This policy that children should continue with a broad education into S3 rather than selecting seven or eight subjects to study for two years has always been deeply perplexing to me.
“My first concrete suggestion would be that the policy of broad general education in S3 should be dropped.
“I think this would be very attractive to informed parents and would improve standards in literacy and numeracy since pupils would spend more time on English and maths.”
However, a spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union disagreed with Mr Wyllie’s assessment.
He said: “We would agree there is an absolute need for S3 to be a challenging year, but that does not necessarily equate to be the pursuit of qualifications.
“The issue of vocational pathways is rightly highlighted as it remains one of the undelivered aims of CfE.”