Floundering in familiarity

13th June 2008 at 01:00
"Every child in my class would have kissed the paper," said Elizabeth Hull, Ross High modern studies teacher
"Every child in my class would have kissed the paper," said Elizabeth Hull, Ross High modern studies teacher.

She was referring to one particular Higher question about how social class could influence voting, an issue analysed in detail at the East Lothian school. It was typical of a "straightforward" Paper 1, where questions featured plenty of familiar topics presented in a way unlikely to flummox.

Paper 2, where candidates had to perform the same report-writing exercise using a series of sources, should not have posed too many problems, given the familiarity of the topic. Pupils had to take on the role of a social policy expert, and prepare a report for an all-party group of MSPs where they made the case for or against free prescription charges.

Ms Hull, who is also co-ordinator of subject support for modern studies in East Lothian, did have concerns about the papers at Intermediate 1 and 2, but these related to long-standing issues about format, rather than this year's content.

The school works hard to pre-empt problems by producing preliminary papers that "scrupulously" match the real thing, down to the type and colour of paper. Even so, pupils often miss out a large chunk of a question because "they just didn't see it" going on to the next page. Problems also arise because topics are sub-divided, and questions are not always clear.

One question related to decision-making in central government, another to decision-making in Scotland; Ms Hull is concerned that students who studied the latter will mistakenly have applied it to the former, because of the similarities between the questions.

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