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Depths of Higher flannel;Opinion;News amp; Opinion

AS SURE as the birds fly south for winter and the trees shiver in the autumn rain, it is time for the annual meeting of Higher Still co-ordinators. My mood lightens at the news that one of my fellow-sufferers brings back from his holiday - he shared a plane with one of the Higher Still Development Unit leaders last summer -heading for Disneyland!

Reality sets in as we hear how Highers will soon number 106, and that Principles of Colouring Hair and Facial Care, Professional Patisserie and Selling Scheduled Air Travel will soon be on a par with Higher Mathematics. Sadly, however, Fish Husbandry and Amenity Horticulture will only be available at Intermediate 2.

The audience brighten up as we are shown a mock-up certificate of Robert D. Bruce (clever, eh?), a putative student whose results are profiled in a handy three pages, missing only his inside leg measurement and what he had for breakfast for the past three days.

"Employers are recognising the need for this audit of an employee's skills", the HMI intones. These must be different employers from those who think Lowers and Highers are the Scottish school exams, who imagine O-Levels (sic) are a recent introduction, and who set entrance tests taken from fifties English course books - complete the following: "a - of lions, a - of ducks, a - of pottage".

Seeking consolation on Friday I go to the local sports centre for an hour of physical therapy. Down the years, as the body ages, squash has been replaced by tennis. But even here I'm pursued by new developments. A neighbouring school uses the centre, and lying under my changing room peg is a task sheet for a PE profile of performance qualities ranging from alertness (physical and mental) to accuracy of shot placement, creativity, emotional control (Gazza!), dominance and a dozen others. I haven't laughed so much since I noted a module enrolment form crossing my desk this year for someone called Craig Brown doing Association Football 1.

There are three boxes: Clearly Evident Some Evidence No Evidence. The pupil, who presumably only wanted to play, has managed 39 ticks, all in the middle column, en route to completing the task sheet for Intermediate badminton. Then he left it behind to depress exhausted teachers at the week's end.

My mind goes back to our autumn Higher Still meeting. In the graveyard slot, after lunch, a speaker pushing core skills and group awards declared, "The stakeholders demand an accurate report on each candidate". Stakeholders maybe, but some get fillet and some get mince.

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