The minister didn't listen

18th August 2000 at 01:00
THE problems faced by the Scottish Qualifications Authority were predicted by the Educational Institute of Scotland and countless classroom teachers because of the complexity of the internal assessment system.

Unfortunately the Schools Minister, as is his wont in education matters, chose to turn a deaf ear to these warnings and to listen instead to the unrealistically upbeat picture presented by HMI and senior managers of the SQA.

The full folly of the requirement for all candidates in the new system to pass every single internal assessment did not become apparent until March when candidates doing five Higher courses could be facing 18-20 assessments or projects

falling due that month (not including retests).

This assessment overload insisted upon by the SQA all had to be recorded and validated and without doubt must have contributed to the problems ith the new computer system.

Much more seriously it caused tremendous stress to S5 and S6 students, particularly borderline students or those who missed assessments through illness and resulted in a number of them giving up on one or more of the courses which they had been studying all year.

I hope Mr Galbraith's successor will not be afflicted by the same selective deafness. Only a schools minister who is prepared to listen to the concerns of teachers rather than the agenda of HMI can restore public confidence in Scottish education.

The key outcome of this debacle must be the removal of the requirement that every single internally assessed element in a Higher Still course has to be passed before a candidate can sit the external exam.

John Dennis

(EIS executive council member for Dumfries and Galloway)

Glencaple Avenue, Dumfries

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