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Focus must be wider

Friday August 25 2000 THE VARIOUS inquiries into the Higher Still debacle must not be confined to the failure of the Scottish Qualifications Authority to process and manage data. Wider, deeper questions must be asked if the authenticity and integrity of Scotland's qualification system are to be restored. We propose the following questions:

To what extent was the SQA not so much a merger with the highly-esteemed Scottish Examination Board, but more a take-over of the certification system by the long-discredited Scottish Vocational Education Council? Certainly, Higher Still courses rely very heavily on the Scotvec model with its lack of rigour in assessment procedures, lack of interest in course content, and its shallow modular approach which is incompatible with the educational needs of schools. How many experienced SEB people remained in influential positions within the SQA after the merger?

What has been the role of Her Majesty's Inspectorate in the Higher Still process? In particular, why have we heard no statement from the senior chief inspector, Douglas Osler, the man responsible for the igher Still Development Unit which created the failed programme?

Why has the HSDU imposed upon the Scottish education system a programme which has proven itself incapable of including the key core subject of English? The prospect of including English has surely faded forever with the latest desperate proposal for an English exam with an essay question to be done in 45 minutes!

Why, despite repeated warnings from teachers backed by the evidence of experience, was internal assessment imposed upon the senior certification system? Given the variety of times allowed for these assessments, the variety of numbers of resits allowed, the variety of parental support offered to pupils, the failure to provide a universal definition of "controlled conditions" for sitting these assessments, and all the other flaws in the system, no "quality assurance" can ever apply to Higher Still internal assessment. Should there not be a rigorous and independent audit of the way it was managed in our schools?

Tony McManus

Chairperson, Scottish Association of

Teachers of Language and Literature

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