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English Higher Still in disarray;Letter

AN update on the progress of Higher Still English creates even more cause for concern. With the commencement date still August 1999, we are now in this position:

* All documentation is to be "binned" - all 1,300-plus pages. New arrangements will be issued, maybe by this August.

* Two assessable elements have been scrapped, the two which all teachers recently spent scarce development time working on. There is no promise of extra development time to compensate.

* The specialist study element will stay for all, although it is admitted that it is impossible to be certain that it is genuinely student work, and unrealistic to expect less able students to handle this.

* The oralaural element will also stay despite the grave difficulties of applying the assessment criteria (yet to be written) consistently. Students are still required to pass all the elements internally, even those that are to be externally examined before they gain a pass.

* Now the report has become an optional element, there is no requirement that students write in formal continuous prose on a general topic. The literature essay could be the only example of formal writing. It is possible students will study only two main texts during the course, but then only 40 hours are allocated to literature.

The above reductions have been made because of teachers' fears over workload. But their main concern is that this important development is being botched by people who are entirely out of touch with what a good English course should comprise. It is no accident that other subjects appear to be progressing well while English remains in chaos and disarray. The sooner those writing the nonsense that passes for advice are replaced, the better.

Eddie Poyner Bonnington Avenue, Lanark

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