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Something has to give

THE Higher Still imbroglio appears to be turning from farce into deeper farce. Clearly those charged with its implementation are in a hole but the forces bearing down on them mean they cannot stop digging (page three). Assessment is a workload issue for teachers, as delegates to the Educational Institute of Scotland conference will hear repeatedly. It is an issue because of the amount of traffic flowing from schools to the Scottish Qualifications Authority, and at least that now appears to have been simplified. And it is an issue about the relationship between internal assessment and external exams, which in turn is an educational issue that does not yet look as though it is anywhere near being resolved.

Last week's extraordinary turn of events, when it appeared that the focus was on the external exam as an answer to the shortage of markers rather than on internal assessment as a way of taming the Higher Still monster, took some beating. We can but imagine the apoplexy i the halls of academe.

We now have a situation where, whatever the final outcome of the fine tuning, internal assessment could disappear in its present form as a summative exercise required to be administered to all pupils in all units in all courses - if the minister and a consultation exercise agree. It would mean a distinction, at least in assessment terms, between pupils taking courses who would be externally examined and certificated, and those merely accumulating units which stopped short of the full course or took longer to complete.

This "twin-track" system sounds suspiciously like what used to be presided over by the SEB and Scotvec. Whatever the progression for pupils that may be built in, have we now reached the stage after almost 10 years of frustrating reform where we can conclude that Higher Still was an overly complex failure, that attempts to bridge the academic and vocational divide were doomed and that the SQA was completely unnecessary?

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