Has the SQA hit the wrong key?

6th July 2007 at 01:00
I am very concerned with the assessment procedures in music operated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. Students are asked to prepare a programme of a set number of minutes. Only one piece will be played in its entirety (chosen by the examiner). Any others will be sampled.

Examiners will curtail performances of each subsequent piece to conform to the sample time (in my own experience, this included the examiner ostentatiously sitting with her watch on the desk in an Advanced Higher exam). How can a holistic mark be derived from a part performance?

Students are also upset when the examiner chooses their weakest piece for complete performance or asks them to omit repeats, which they have learnt (and the composer intended). Further-more, composition at all levels and the dissertation at Advanced Higher are subject to verification. Each of these has at least five "pass" criteria. Failure in one of these means failure in the NAB and, therefore, failure in presentation for the course. The weighting in both these elements is disproportionate to the whole course.

My own experiences with the SQA have revealed that it will cover its own back to the detriment of students. I know of emails regarding instrumental choices being rejected, inconsistent marking procedures and some other irregularities in the assessment of music at NQ level.

I should be interested in opening up a national debate on some of these issues, as my personal experiences may have been unique. I believe in my subject and why I became a teacher. I also believe in what I need to deliver to my students to ensure a smooth transition from secondary to tertiary education. Is the SQA equally concerned?

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