Subject Information - Politics

S6 Higher Politics

Head of Department: Mrs Fiona Taylor

Course Progression: Modern Studies

At present this course is only open to S6 pupils. The purpose of this course is to develop knowledge and understanding of important political concepts, theories, ideologies and systems through Scottish, British and international contexts. Learners compare different political systems, evaluate the factors that impact on the electoral performance of political parties, and develop knowledge and understanding of how different political ideologies, systems and parties resolve the timeless pursuit of power, authority and legitimacy.

Course Units

The course involves the study of three units:

Unit 1 – Political Theory
In this Unit, learners will use a range of sources of information to evaluate different political ideologies and political concepts. They will draw on theoretical and conceptual knowledge and understanding of political ideologies and political concepts. Learners will study two political ideologies from the following- Liberalism, Socialism, Conservatism, Nationalism, Fascism. Learners must refer to the ideas of political theorists relevant to each ideology. 

Unit 2 – Political Systems
In this Unit, learners will use a range of sources of information to compare different political systems. They will draw on knowledge and understanding of different political systems. Learners will study two political systems from the following- Scottish political system, UK political system, European political system, US political system. Learners will study aspects of the political systems as follows: the nature and status of different constitutional arrangements; the advantages and disadvantages of respective legislatures in terms of democratic decision-making, passage of legislation, scrutiny of legislation and government policies; political executives; differences in the distribution of power and how the executive relates to other branches of government; the role of the judiciary and its independence within comparative political systems.

Unit 3 – Political Parties and Elections
In this Unit, learners will analyse a range of electoral data to evaluate factors which contribute to the electoral performance of UK political parties. They will draw on knowledge and understanding of the complex factors that contribute to the electoral performance of UK political parties. Learners will study the impact of the dominant ideas within a UK political party on its electoral performance. Learners will study a political party from the following- Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party. Learners will study aspects of the following: the dominant ideas of the political party studied and the impact of these ideas on the electoral performance of the political party; the impact of a range of factors on the electoral performance of the political party; the application of theoretical analyses of voting behaviour. Learners will study the impact of a range of factors on electoral performance such as: traditional campaign strategies, for example canvassing, leafleting and the ‘ground game’; political campaign management strategies; media strategies, including television, newspapers, radio and new media; the use of technology.

Course Assessment

Course assessment consists of two Components:

Component 1 - The Exam
The exam contains two question papers. Paper 1 consists of 52 marks and candidates have 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete this paper. The question paper has three sections which mirror the Units the learners undertake. Candidates answer two extended response questions out of 20 marks and one out of 12 marks. All three assess knowledge and understanding, as well as higher-order skills of analysis and evaluation. In each section, candidates have a choice of question to answer.

Paper 2 consists of 28 marks and candidates have 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete this paper. Candidates will answer two source-based information-handling skills questions assessing the skills of comparing and contrasting (worth eight marks) and interpreting, synthesising and evaluating electoral data (worth 20 marks). Candidates will have no choice of question.

Component 2 – assignment
The purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate challenge and application by demonstrating skills, knowledge and understanding within the context of a political issue. This assignment will give learners an opportunity to demonstrate the following skills, knowledge and understanding: 

  • identify a political issue that invites discussion and debate 
  • research a political issue using a range of sources of information 
  • show detailed factual and theoretical knowledge and understanding of a political issue  
  • refer to political sources 
  • analyse and synthesise information in a structured manner 
  • draw a detailed and reasoned conclusion, showing an awareness of different points of view 
  • communicate information 

The assignment will have 30 marks (27% of the total mark). The assignment write-up will be carried out under formal exam conditions. Learners will have 1 hour and 30 minutes for the write up. 

It should be noted that there are clear guidelines provided by the SQA in relation to the Politics assignment and teacher assistance. All teachers are limited to providing “reasonable assistance” during the research and preparation phase. Such “reasonable assistance” includes:

  • directing candidates to the instructions for candidates
  • clarifying instructions/requirements of the task
  • advising candidates on the choice of issue
  • advising candidates on possible sources of information
  • interim progress checks
  • advising candidates of the nature and volume of specified resources which may be used to support the production of evidence. 

The SQA are very clear that “reasonable assistance” does not include:

  • providing the issue to be researched for the candidate
  • directing candidates to specific resources to be used
  • providing model answers
  • providing detailed feedback on drafts, including marking. 

For the full SQA documentation relating to the assignment, please refer to the online PDF.

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