Editor's comment

21st March 2008 at 00:00
The predictions of the death of Standard grade have been almost as long as its slow birth. It dates back at least to the great debate in 2002 to which then education minister Cathy Jamieson responded by committing the former government to one exit exam for pupils leaving school. Since then, reforms have come and gone while Standard grade continued to sit uneasily amid a new raft of National Qualifications.

The education community in Scotland is at one in its view that schools and their pupils are over-burdened by assessment. What they are not at one in agreeing is what should be done about it. There will not be a united welcome to our front page revelation this week that the Education Secretary is to pronounce the death sentence on Standard grade and Intermediate exams.

The Educational Institute of Scotland will not like it, even if Fiona Hyslop feels she is armed with the support of Peter Peacock, her predecessor-but-one, and with the conclusions of the recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report. Its view that Standard grades show how little academic learning has occurred, rather than how much, resonated with many. As it put it, "it is not summative finality that is needed at this late compulsory stage: it is preparation and pathways building".

In truth, the objections to the loss of Standard grade as an exam are more ones of practicalities than principles. Something has to give in the overcrowded qualifications landscape, but the new arrangements will have to overcome timetabling, staffing and resource difficulties, especially if new literacy and numeracy tests are introduced. The arrival of unit-based assessment to replace Standard grade will not impress people such as John Greenlees, our correspondent last week, who pointed out that a typical pupil taking five Highers in S5 has to endure 15 unit assessments, five prelims and five external exams between September and April.

The debate has barely started.

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