Joint National 5/Higher Class

  • Andrew Tait

    Hi all,

    Having received my timetable for the 2019/20 session, I now find myself with a combined National 5/Higher class. In prior years, I was fortunate enough to have the National 5 and Higher levels in separate classes, with the only Bi-level teaching being those who had dropped from National 5 to National 4.

    Does anyone have any experience in running a National 5/Higher class? I am looking for any advice on any possible problems faced.

    I have taught bi-level Nat 5/ Higher classes for over 7 years. It mainly involves choosing to work with one of the levels e.g. Higher for one of the days and setting them a piece of work that they can get on with independently during the next lesson and then during that next lesson, working with the other level – e.g. Nat 5. I often find that I have to spend most of my time with the Nat 5 pupils as they require that extra support. Higher pupils usually tend to be a bit more independent Not always the case though. This coming session I have Nat 5/ Higher and AH in the same class. 🙁

    Denis Soames

    This sounds like a worryingly familiar senario. I wonder how those who inititally pitched the ideas of serior phase would comment on this idea of bi and tri level teaching being used as it is today? Efficiencies at the cost of results.

    I had success with N4/N5 bi level last year, the overlap in courses is such that it works well, this year Higher and Advanced higher not so much, there is too much content to teach both groups properly and get through it all in the time we had. To add further compromise they gave me 3 pupils crashing onto higher without programming experience at Nat5 level which mean more adjustment and less time for me to spread myself about.

    Ive pushed back against this sort of course planning, it needs to have a teachers buy in to work and they need confidence in planning it before its agreed, it needs to have understanding about what curriculum overlap there is to find out if its even feasable, IMO there is too wide a gap for Nat5/Higher and Higher/Adv higher.

    With only 1 Adv Higher candidate I can expect at least one nightmare but I suspect they will try and give me Nat4/Nat5/Higher this year and my hope is that they dont place the Adv Higher in that group otherwise I will get a quad level group!!!

    Andrew Tait

    Thanks for responses.

    It confirms my initial thoughts and concerns that I had raised in school.

    The timetable is split so there are 2 x Double Periods and 1 x Single. The initial plan being that 1 double is focused on NAT5 and the other the Higher, with the single being combined. The hope being that the work done with one group in their double, is enough to set them to work on their tasks in the other. However, it may not work like that based on who needs help and when.

    Preparation is obviously key! Initially, I am looking at CS before summer (timetable change will give 6-7 weeks and if someone changes course, it causes the least impact), then either DDD or WDD next – this is to give any crash Higher pupils the time to catch up with NAT5 programming.

    David Lodge

    I’ve been teaching N5/Higher bi-level for the past couple of years over 3 x double periods. I tend to devote a period of each double period to each level. It’s not easy as it relies a lot on the cooperation of the pupils and I regularly have my Higher part of a lesson interrupted by a N5 pupil raising their hand to say something like “I’m stuck”.

    There’s obviously the issue of pupil attainment but another issue is that after many of the 100 minute lessons I am exhausted as I’m on the go for most of the lesson bouncing between the different levels.

    I’m a union rep in our school and was asked for union advice on multi-level teaching by some members. The union advice was to put concerns in writing and make sure you have adequate/extra preparation and correction time.

    There was an article in the Herald yesterday about multi-level teaching in Scotland:


    I usually teacher the Higher class which eventually results in a few National 5’s in there. I have tended to teach to higher but where the highers are working on something more difficult the Nationals are practicing skills. There are times where the Highers can get on with bigger things and I can use that time to catch up Nat 5’s on specifics on the course to them but over all I don’t find it too much of a problem. That being said it does depend on the class and the amount of pupils doing the levels. I have no doubt that bi-level and, what I have next year, tri-level affects attainment. Its a very real issue and my aim has been to try to raise the uptake in computing so that there are enough to run 2 classes. Running advanced Higher next year is scaring me especially when its going to be a the same time as Highers and then during the year Nat’5 when some can’t keep up. Frustrating time!

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