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No quick fix for art and design

A FULL review of the controversial Higher art and design course is being launched in the new year by the Scottish Qualifications Authority - but it will be three years before students are affected.

The authority is currently appointing two development officers who will be expected to take two years to consult with teachers and others before making their recommendations for slimming down burdens on students and teachers.

Tom Drake, SQA general manager, promised "a look at the course in its entirety" to iron out the difficulties highlighted by principal teachers. Mr Drake commented: "This will be an opportunity to air grievances and we hope to get a consensus on the way forward."

The existing course was devised by the former Higher Still Development Unit and is into its fourth year in schools and colleges. However, it has never been fully accepted by the profession.

The SQA has carried out a full statistical review but has failed to find a national pattern of concern in line with criticism aired through The TES Scotland. Problems are "highly localised" for some unexplained reasons, it maintains.

Mr Drake said: "More people are getting better passes in Higher art and design compared to subjects with similar uptakes. It was taken by 7,196 students and the pass rate was 79.8 per cent. That is a very high pass rate compared to biology with 65.2 per cent and chemistry at 70.7 per cent."

The pass rate has been broadly similar year on year. This year 18 per cent gained an A pass.

* The SQA has set out a five-year strategy for full recovery following the upheavals of the past three years and warned that fees will have to rise. Costs have soared by more than a third since the Higher Still changes, forcing the Executive to put in an extra pound;11 million a year. Ministers accept this cannot go on.

The authority points out that its fees of around pound;24 per Higher candidate are almost half that of some examining bodies south of the border. "We need a realistic price tag to make the system work," a spokesman said.

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