No reduction in weight given to literature;Letter

5th January 1996 at 00:00
As the chair of the Higher Still English specialist group, I would welcome the opportunity to correct two critical factual errors in the article by Tino Ferri, (TESS, December 8).

I have no wish to enter into debate on the central theme of Mr Ferri's article - the profession will decide for itself the value of the proposal that "one of the texts studied must be by a Scottish author". However, this highlights one of the errors in the article. Mr Ferri accuses the specialist group of avoiding consultation on the grounds that it would "open up the possibility of rejection". In fact the proposed introduction of a compulsory element of Scottish literature is specifically highlighted as a consultation point. The specialist group has not become the mouthpiece of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies. Rather it has opened up for consultation and debate a very important question and is confident that teachers will respond thoughtfully to it.

Second, Mr Ferri makes the point that the English framework drastically reduces "the literature component of the Higher examination (from 45 per cent to 20 per cent)". In fact there is no reduction of the weight given to literature in the proposals. The present situation is that students taking Higher English can score 54 per cent of the available marks in "language work" and 46 per cent in responses to literature. Students who attain the Scotvec National Certificate modules Communication 4 and Literature 1 have followed a course weighted two-thirds language and one-third literature.

The new proposals make provision for either of these routes to be followed. It is envisaged that schools will continue to encourage students to undertake a literary review of personal reading in Unit 2 and may also choose to seek students' reflections on literature as part of this unit. This arrangement, along with Unit 3 (on literature) will bring the weighting of literature in the course up to or beyond that in Higher English at present. Further education students preparing for a particular vocational area may choose to do their review of personal reading on a non-literary text or texts, but would still be required to succeed in Unit 3 to obtain a Higher English qualification.

It will be open to teachers in both sectors, as it is now, to use literature study to help students develop any aspect of language competence.

GEORGE M R SMUGA

Rector

North Berwick High School

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