Improving bad writing

25th February 2000 at 00:00
HIGHER Still English exposes the fact that most of our pupils have poor independent writing skills - too poor to cope with what is required by the courses as they stand. The courses assume that all pupils with a Standard grade at General 4 or better can, independently, write - more or less accurately - at some length. This is not the case. On the whole, Standard grade English awards do not measure the independent writing skills of any candidate.

Most English teachers know that General 3 and 4 grades can be awarded to pupils who have some significant problems with writing and reading.

It is, therefore, perfectly un-

derstandable when such pupils cannot cope with courses like Intermediate 1 and 2. These require writing skills which are "sufficiently accurate".

For 20 years, we have operated an assessment system which has paid very little attention to independent wriing skills. Teachers, parents and others have been encouraged to participate in "redrafting" essays so that folio work is usually a combined effort.

Revised Higher grades are

similarly skewed by folio work, although they at least are slightly influenced by the report-writing section of the exam. Nevertheless it has been possible to achieve impressive Scottish Qualifications Authority awards with fairly ropey writing skills.

The SQA must decide what skills English awards assess. Comprehension? Syntax? Spelling? Reasoning? Memory?

Copying? Redrafting? Reciting? Diction?

Can we please have a complete system of assessment which allows all candidates to succeed in courses which accurately reflect their skills and their interests? In particular, can we please start being honest about independent writing skills?

Frances McKie

Evanton, Ross-shire

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