Making stressful decisions

22nd March 1996 at 00:00
Your report last week and editorial this week dealing with the latest developments in Higher Still both leave unquestioned the idea that teachers' fears about assessment will be eased by a national bank of assessment materials. Yes, it will perhaps make the workload a bit easier, although as an English teacher I remain to be convinced that it will be possible to have very many items which can usefully be applied in the context of the wide variety of texts that are taught throughout the country.

That aside, however, what I find most frustrating about your items is the absence of any recognition that it is the process of acting as both teacher and assessor that is going to increase the "hidden" stress on teachers. At present, the external marking system of the Scottish Examination Board ensures that the job of making decisions about students' final grades in the Higher and thus about their possible entry to further courses is kept away from the classroom teacher. When the onus of assessment is shifted to the teacher, all sorts of forces are going to come into play that are going to make decisions about passing or failing students into nerve-wracking ones indeed.

ROBERT SIM

31 Norstane, Lerwick, Shetland Letters should be addressed to 37 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HN. Telephone 0131 220 1100; fax 0131 220 1616.

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