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Guilty of not listening

YOUR account of Ron Tuck's evidence to the Parliament's education committee inquiry into this year's exam problems appeared to suggest that most of the problems had been caused by the inadequacy of one of his colleagues who had personal problems at the time. It sounded very lame.

I hope Mr Tuck, as former chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, did not set out to blame others in this way. It is a manager's job, and the Government's job, to identify false assurances and to know what is really going on. It is a mark of incompetence when a manager or minister fails to do this for whatever reason.

I thought Mr Tuck had accepted responsibility when he resigned. It will be very embarrassing, and degrading, if he now reneges on that.

In fact, the SQA's computers and administrators are the least important aspects of the Higher Still mess. The authority has had absolutely no reason to be unaware that the structure and assessment of the new Higher Still courses were educationally unsound and would prove unworkable.

Evidence from many sources will show that it has been continually warned, with detailed references nd analyses, during the last four years.

Evidence will also show that such concern, even from implementing teachers, was dismissed with arrogance and some aggression not just by the SQA but, more importantly, by the real architects and dictators of this development, HMI and the Higher Still Development Unit. This was by far the most worrying aspect of the programme. It would be very enlightening, for instance, for MSPs to read the letter sent to all schools in November 1999 by Mary Pirie, the HSDU's chief officer.

These people, who intimidated teachers and returned submissions unread, must be properly held to account.

The full implications of their Higher Still programme, particularly as it affects teaching and learning, have not been scrutinised objectively. It is the duty of the present inquiries to make this happen - in public.

While this is going on, it is vital that urgent decisions are made to abandon the most flawed aspects of Higher Still, especially internal assessment, before we take the current S5 pupils any further through their courses.

Frances McKie

Ash Hill



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