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'If it doesn't work, we'll change it'

THE SQA has undertaken a major survey of internal assessment in Higher Still courses. This has involved 3,400 pupils in six authorities and, although analysis is not complete, the "headline findings" are positive.

Internal assessment in the three units which make up each course is seen as having beneficial effects, particularly in encouraging good work patterns and in providing early feedback for pupils.

But Ron Tuck acknowledges that issues remain, such as the timing of assessments as well as the gap between unit assessments, which are really about minimum competences, and the more demanding final exams.

Exam oficials have carried out follow-up visits to 12 schools, interviewing eight pupils in each. Teacher views will also be sought on the national assessment bank for Higher Still which has been the subject of vigorous criticism from the unions.

"This will accompany the normal questionnaire which we send out to teachers asking them what they think about exam questions each year," Mr Tuck says. "So we are in no sense 'launching an inquiry'.

"We have no axe to grind that is different from that of teachers. We both want an assessment system that works. If it doesn't work, we will change it. It's not rocket science."

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