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30 years ago

Same issues, different age. The TES Scotland reported on November 21, 1975: The percentage of Scottish pupils aged 17 years who gained three Highers or more had risen in 12 years from 7.3 to 21, said Mr William Ross, Secretary of State, when he formally opened the SCE Examination Board's new offices at Dalkeith last Friday.

"That says something about the organisation of our schools, the work done by the teachers and the changing syllabuses. It also shows we have been tapping more and more into what has hitherto been an untapped source of educational excellence. The improvement in the quality and availability of secondary education is, I think, incontrovertible from these figures."

He had not thought when he inaugurated the board's former offices in Edinburgh in 1968 that there would be such a tremendous development of examinations in the next seven years.

Looking back over the 10 years the board had been in being, he said there was a great deal for which they merited congratulation. There was the sheer volume of the work. The number of individual subject presentations for the O grade had gone up from 199,000 in 1965 to 407,000 in 1975, and in the H grade the increase had been from 74,000 to 149,000.

Mr Ross gave a warning against any assumption that success in education could be determined by examination passes alone, or that examinations were entirely good for education.

A special problem had arisen from the raising of the school leaving age. He sometimes thought there was too much dedication to O grades, and that the raising of the leaving age might have driven people to devote themselves to courses for which they did not have the right aptitudes, simply to gain another O grade pass. He did not think the O grade was meant for all the people who were now sitting it.

New and more elaborate techniques of examining, involving, for example, the use of objective tests, tapes and discs, had been developed . . . to help schools with assessment at all stages and also to help towards an understanding of national standards. This item bank had great possibilities.

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