I had a look at the recently published specimen external assessment for National 5 (maths) today and I have this to say. To begin on a positive note, I like the clarity of the wording of the questions which leaves the student in no doubt about what is being asked. This is a much welcomed move away from the style of questions at Credit level which were often dressed up in a farcical manner to give the appearance of being set in a real-life context. I was already aware that some topics previously left until Higher had been moved into National 5. The depth of knowledge required by students to answer questions on these new topics is alarming judging from this specimen paper. For example, the paper sites a question about conditions for "no real roots" of a quadratic equation which was previously reserved for Higher level of study. Looking to the support notes for the course the only reference to this topic is a single word - discriminant - and does not give away any clues for the reader about the depth of understanding actually required which, in my opinion, is too difficult for National 5. And for those who remember the O-Grade, vectors are back in but with a twist - this time knowledge of 3D vectors is required which again was the previous reserve of the Higher. Working in 3D is, again in my opinion, a step too far for National 5 and working in 2D would have been more than sufficient at this level. National 5 also demands that pupils should be able to calculate the magnitude of a vector in 3D. This is not a difficult calculation but it is based on the distance formula, a formula which is not mentioned at all in the support notes. It is pitiful that the original support notes published last year did not give a clear enough indication as to the depth of knowledge required yet many of our pupils will be facing this exam next year, probably ill prepared. There still does not appear to be a clear emerging road map for students to follow towards these new qualifications and many schools are adopting very different models from each other. The notion of a Broad General Curriculum in S1 to S3 has been interpreted in a variety of ways leaving no consistency from one secondary to the next. The National 5 standard in maths now appears to be much higher than previously expected and I am unable to see how it fits in. Will students be expected to reach this standard before embarking on a Higher course? At the moment it seems that it all depends on the school. I know of one school who will be asking students to choose a level of study (Nat4, Nat5 or Higher) at the end of S3 with the expectation that they reach their chosen level by the end of S5 when the assessment will take place. This brings even more questions to mind - like, where's the safety net for those who fail? Will some students now be leaving at Christmas of S5 without the opportunity of sitting any qualifications? In my view it's a horrible mess. National 4, being internally assessed, will be without much credibility. National 5 looks unachievable for most and those who can pass the assessment are likely to go on and achieve a Higher anyway (or will only be doing a Higher depending on the road map the school chooses). I am, of course, only considering this from a maths point of view but I suspect it will be a similar story across many other subjects. On one final note, I have not yet been given any training opportunities at all for the new assessments. I did ask to be released on an in-service day to attend a SQA seminar at last years Learning Festival but was denied this by senior management in my school - the schools own agenda being apparently to vital to miss. I have been teaching from 30 years and thought I had seen it all, how wrong was I?!