'Cheat's charter' condemned;Conference;Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association

1st May 1998 at 01:00
David Henderson reports from the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association conference in Dundee

Pupils' folios and investigations at Standard grade and Higher are little more than a "cheat's charter", conference agreed in calling for more reliable internal assessment.

Up to a third of the marks in such subjects as English can depend on pupils' work carried out at home - but there is no guarantee it is their own, delegates accepted.

Jimmy Docherty, West Lothian, called for an end to "unjustified awards". Parents in more affluent areas were helping their children and employing tutors to coach them. Schools were also under pressure to produce higher awards and were not as strict as they might be in scrutinising pupils' work.

"The concept of internally assessed elements is fundamentally flawed unless it can be guaranteed it is that of the pupil," Mr Docherty said.

Bill Fitzpatrick, East Ayrshire, described investigations as "little short of a cheat's charter". He favoured strict conditions for assessing such elements.

"Higher history has got it right. You do your research on your own but you write the final report under exam conditions," he said.

Peter Wright, West Lothian, pointed out social subject investigations in history and geography had been reformed after teacher protests. The other subjects - economics, religious education, music and physical education - should follow.

* Mandatory training for headteachers will be "a joke" if ministers insist it should be done in the evenings, weekends and holidays, Douglas Campbell, rector of Bell Baxter High, Cupar, told delegates.

"We're not going to be treated as enthusiastic amateurs," he said. The vast majority of secondary heads were already performing well or very well against a background of budget cuts, decaying buildings, increasing workload and rising expectations.

* The only way to secure early retirement after the recent changes to the teachers' superannuation scheme is to be "totally incompetent", Craig Duncan, depute general secretary, advised.

"If you want to get out on sickness, be ready to die, " Mr Duncan said. He retires this week.

His post disappears with him and the new assistant secretary is Jimmy Docherty, St Kentigern's Academy, Bathgate.

* Membership of the SSTA stands at 6923.

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