Give us time

27th October 2000 at 01:00
NO one would deny that the Scottish Qualifications Authority has a mammoth task on its hands but its latest announcements seem to reinforce the view that it has lost sight of the realities of education in Scottish secondary schools. Take a closer look at its proposal to bring forward the date for final submission by schools of the results of unit assessments.

For school administration teams to collate and prepare these for submission requires departments to have them ready by mid-April. Remember that teachers have to assess, mark and possibly reassess - after suitable remediation - candidates in their final Unit and possibly earlier ones as well.

Allowing for this and the Easter holidays means that departments have until about mid-March to complete the teaching of their courses as opposed to the middle of May they were anticipating. The assessment ail seems to be firmly wagging the learning and teaching dog.

The problem stems from the sacred cow of internal assessment being carried out on far too restricted a timescale. HMI and the Higher Still Development Unit have kept the current crisis at arm's length, but many of the present difficulties stem from the insistence on burdensome and unnecessary internal assessment. One pupil correspondent to the SQA interactive website summed it up: "If you pass the unit assessments they mean nothing, but if you fail them they mean everything."

A radical and open review of the role of internal assessment in the Higher Still programme needs to be carried out. Teachers in the classroom have been asking for a slimmed-down system of internal assessment for too long. When will their voices be heard?

Campbell Robertson

Argyll Place, Aberdeen

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