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Highers in a spin

GEORGE FORFAR expresses a widely held view (TESS, February 11) when he criticises the management of Higher Still by the Scottish Qualifications Authority and the Higher Still Development Unit and specifically their dissemination of unreliable instruments of assessment.

However, his experience of Intermediate 1 is untypical. Doreen Thomson (TESS, February 4) gave a candid account of the course's harmful effects - the problems commonly encountered.

It seems odd that the authors of English and Communication, in particular, were not able to foresee that the imposition of a segmented, assessment-driven system would inevitably result in a largely negative response from students.

A rigid programme of excessive internal and external testing is ineffective as a learning vehicle, especially for genuine language development. The resolution passed at the last Educational Institue of Scotand's annual meeting indicated the strength of the profession's censure.

It's time for teachers like myself, with reasonable track-records in Higher exam presentation, examination board work, course development, to ask publicly why little heed has been paid to our evaluation of the basic flaws in this "initiative".

Why we continue to be fobbed off by representatives spinning a line: "minor teething problems . . . It'll all come right in the end . . . no student will suffer this year . . . just go on testing them till they pass . . . better NABS are on the way . . . promise . . ."

Can these people be unaware

of the stressful uncertainty "for all" when counter amendment

follows amendment to "arrangements", in panic response, as the anomalies inherent in their grand design become apparent?

A Mackay

Principal teacher of English

Fortrose Academy

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