Concern over exam reforms

10th October 2008 at 01:00

One of Scotland's main parent organisations has expressed reservations about government plans to use more internal assessment in secondary school under its exam reforms.

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council questions whether teachers will work to "a common standard" if they are required to assess pupils' attainment at the end of S3 and to grade internal assessment units from A-C, instead of simply marking them pass or fail as at present.

"Evidence from other courses, where there are already graded units, suggests that students will want to sit the unit assessments at the end of the course, they will want the chance to improve their grades through resits and there could even be a demand for an appeal system," says the SPTC in its draft response to the national consultation on reform of Standard grade and Intermediate exams.

Proposals to introduce new literacy and numeracy tests - areas for which all teachers would be responsible, but for which there would be no taught course - could lead to pupils being confused if different teachers teach the topics differently, warns the SPTC: "If there is an external exam, there needs to be a taught course to prepare youngsters. It will be important to establish at the outset the value of the literacy and numeracy qualifications for further and higher education and employment compared to English and maths qualifications if youngsters are to be free to drop the latter two."

While there are apparent attractions in giving pupils greater flexibility over how long they take to study their Higher courses (12, 18 or 24 months), the option of by-passing the new General (S4) qualifications, and having a winter exam diet, the SPTC nevertheless raises practical objections. It comments: "If youngsters spend different lengths of time studying for the same exam, they will need separate teaching and only large schools will be able to offer various time options and, even then, only in popular subjects. A winter diet was introduced previously and had to be abandoned because it was so unpopular. Youngsters have always been able to bypass lower level exams - they choose not to."

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