The art of box ticking

24th October 2003 at 01:00
I am writing to express my disillusionment with the art and design Higher Still exam and the Scottish Qualifications Authority. For the first time a breakdown of the individual marks has been sent out to schools. What a can of worms this has opened.

For the first time we are seeing what we always expected. The design marks bear no relationship to the expressive marks and I find that difficult to comprehend.

How can a pupil who is talented at the expressive not be on a parallel in the design? How is this design marked? It reminds me of that old saying of the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.

Have we come to the stage where technique and the culture of "ticking the box" trivia in marking are more important than creativity and talent? How is it possible that a pupil can score 82 in the expressive and only 50 in the design? When and how does a truly gifted pupil become a "mere pass"?

Surely the ability of this pupil can be seen. Why then, do the marks not reflect the quality of work? Do markers have instructions where the emphasis is to take marks away rather than add them on? This is not a Higher exam that rewards pupils of natural ability and talent, let alone the commitment and hard work they have shown, often from S1.

If it were the department's fault, then surely, you would think, the SQA would inform you and set alarm bells ringing. In their new "openness" a form is sent back, after the appeals, which is meant to give you a "simple" breakdown of how the pupil fared. You would think that is straightforward.

But no.

The pupil I mention above, we are informed, is "in line with national standards". Nothing is said of the anomaly with the design mark and the other marks. There actually are boxes to tick that should warn the department that the "candidate was weakest in design" but none were ticked.

Why isn't the box ticked?

The SQA must start to take responsibility for this exam, after all it created it and information and support must be put in place to alleviate the stress and bewilderment that is being felt by lots of departments throughout the country.

W Mackie

Hillpark Secondary

Cairngorm Road


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