Editor's comment

22nd May 2009 at 01:00
A head of steam seems to be building against internal assessment for the exam which will replace Standard grade, at least if the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association conference is to be believed

Their arguments betrayed a striking lack of confidence in the reliability of schools to run a rigorous assessment regime. Teachers, it was contended, would be hounded by belligerent parents, ambitious heads and misguided authorities - all anxious, for varying reasons, to ensure pupils' results reflect well on them.

We have no doubt these are ever-present factors with which professional teachers have to wrestle. The Government also needs to take account of them: it is no good airily reassuring people that the exam regime will be "rigorous" and "robust" when teachers have to confront harsh realities on the ground. If the decision is taken to extend internal assessment or, indeed, make it the founding principle of the new exam, ministers will have to go some way to satisfy teachers and the wider public that moderation arrangements will be a sufficient check on standards.

The arguments of SSTA members were couched in terms of teachers being "pushed around". But is that simply a proxy for saying that they cannot be trusted to assess reliably whether or not they are put under pressure to massage results? If so, that would also call into question the validity of external examinations which depend heavily on teachers' marking, albeit with a whole panoply of checks and balances.

Internal assessment only seems to have a bad name in schools: it is standard practice in colleges and universities which get by nicely without the angst. But it certainly will not take off in schools if teachers do not talk it up. And that is unlikely to happen in the near future since we suspect the real reason they want to avoid internal assessment is our old friend - workload. As with Standard grade and Higher Still, deja vu strikes again.

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