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Packed fortnight for exams

The Higher Still examinations will last 15 days a year and will start a week after those for Standard grade. The Scottish Examination Board, which winds up at the end of March, has produced a specimen timetable for use from 1999.

Earlier consultation at the request of the Secretary of State failed to produce clear preference for either separating the period of Standard grade and Higher Still papers or running them concurrently. The board then embarked on a model that would contain the two sets of exams within a short enough period to allow time for five courses of 160 hours in S5 leading to Higher Still.

It believes its model will "create a fairly stable timetable structure from year to year and leave two weeks free of examinations before the end of the school term". However, it acknowledges that some aspects may raise concerns about administrative or logistic problems and these will be considered by the new Scottish Qualifications Authority, which assumes responsibility from April.

Standard grade exams would start after May 17 and Higher Still a week later. All would be finished in the week June 10-16. The timetable allows for two, three-hour exams a day. In some cases papers would have to go on beyond 4pm but because of the problems that might cause in rural areas, the number would be kept to a minimum.

Wherever possible exams in a particular subject would be timetabled on the same weekday each year, and the diet would always finish on a Friday.

The timetable was drawn up before the Higher Still Development Unit had considered information on which courses schools and colleges are likely to offer. But the responses would not give details on presentation numbers or subject groupings which would help in preparing a timetable. Subject groups favoured in existing Highers are likely to change for Higher Still, the board believes.

* Problems in assessing practical abilities in the Standard grade sciences will be eased by a common set of proposals for biology, chemistry, physics and general science, the SEB states in asking for views by February 3. Teachers have been concerned about workload, the easiness of practical tests compared with other elements and variations across the four subjects.

The proposal is to produce a common set of objectives for investigative skills and ways of assessing them. The practical abilities element in each subject would be reduced from 33 per cent to 20 per cent. Candidates in all four subjects would complete two investigations for the exam.

Typical day under the 1999 timetable

Higher Still

Courses............... Papers.................. Time

Mathematics........... All..................... 9am-noon Classical Studies......All..................... 1pm-4pm Geology............... All......................1pm-4pm

Standard grade

Subject............... Papers...................Time

Spanish (reading)..... FG................. 9am-9.45am, 10am-10.45am

Spanish (reading)..... GC................. 9.15am-10am, 10.15am-11.15am

Spanish (listening)... F ..................11.05am-11.30amz

Spanish (listening)... G.................. 11.45am-12.10pmz

Contemporary Social Studies.. FG......... 9am-10am, 10.20am-11.35am

Contemporary Social Studies.. GC......... 9.05am-10.20am, 10.40am-12. 25pm

Spanish (listening).......... C........... 1pm-1.30pmz

Spanish (optional) (writing).. G.......... 1.50pm-2.35pm, C 2.50pm-3.50pm

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