No interest shown in assessment changes

The lack of interest in reforming the Higher Still assessment system, despite union calls for a boycott, is confirmed by an independent analysis of the responses to the consultation, which the Scottish Executive published last week.

In the wake of the exams debacle two years ago, the Executive tested the waters for fundamental change - one proposal would have made internal assessment optional, while the other would have given pupils the option of sitting the final external exam only.

But of the 740 individuals or organisations that replied, there were only 19 of the 32 education authorities, 108 schools out of 387 secondaries, 163 individual teachers out of 24,552 secondary teachers and just three school boards out of the 1,700 which belong to the Scottish School Board Association.

The result was inconclusive, with the single most common response being that neither options A nor B should be chosen, according to the Glasgow University study. Ministers have accepted this and placed their faith in the assessment reviews of 70 subjects being undertaken by the National Qualifications Steering Group. The most favoured option chosen - by 196 respondents - was for the existing system to continue "modified by the subject review process".

Cathy Jamieson, the Education Minister, has confirmed that 18 subjects still have to streamline their assessment arrangements and that short-term improvements will be made wherever possible.

The leadership of the Educational Institute of Scotland remains under pressure to boycott internal assessment in Higher Still courses. Its executive council is due to meet on September 6, and Ms Jamieson plans to hold talks with union leaders before then to see what further reassurances they need.

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