Results are fiddled, says exam critics

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Internal assessment and the weight placed on investigations at Standard grade + are leading to "unprofessional conduct" among teachers and "excessive coaching"+ by staff and parents, the Scottish conference of the National Association of + Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers was told in Stirling last week. And + Higher Still will grind to a halt unless the emphasis on internal assessment is+ altered, delegates were warned.John Kelly, outgoing Scottish president, said: + "The authorities are putting the onus back on the classroom teacher to police a+ rotten system." Mr Kelly was supported by John Milgrew, Glasgow, who said: + "Many, many schools are abusing the system. Teachers will find ways to get + pupils through exams. You may call it exam technique but those rules are now + being stretched to what to my mind is unprofessional conduct." The system was + "a sham", Mr Milgrew said. His own pupils were disadvantaged by being under + strict supervision.Mr Kelly, East Dunbarton, told delegates there was "no + longer a level playing-fi eld" because of internal assessment. Every teacher + knew of tutors employed to coach pupils through exams and direct investigations+ and the feeling in the profession was that "excessive coaching is fairly + widespread".There was no guarantee that pupils' work was their own and teachers+ were forced to sign for work even when they doubted its origins. Staff left + themselves open to parents' litigation if they did not while the former + Scottish Examination Board had been less than helpful, Mr Kelly said."The old + pass-fail method may have been far too brutal but it was transparently brutal,"+ he said.Mr Kelly. an English teacher, said that his Standard grade pupils had + to send five pieces of work for external assessment but there was no limit to + the number of times teachers could ask them to improve and revise their "best" + efforts.He also condemned the burden of internal assessment on teachers and + pupils. Staff were constantly chasing pupils for work close to deadlines and, + in March, there was virtually no class teaching because of the assessment + demands.Higher Still would put students under even greater strain following the+ end of unit assessments. There were seven stages before the final assessment + in English. In biology, there was going to be 11 "assessment hoops", 10 + internal and one external. "The time to study and develop a body of knowledge + is going to go down. Kids are going to be constantly under pressure. It is + going to be assessment, assessment, assessment," Mr Kelly forecast.Colin + Wakeling, Edinburgh, said internal assessment damaged morale by placing + unnecessary burdens on teachers. Higher Still would lead to the "creeping death+ of 16-plus education within the comprehensive school", he warned in a motion + condemning the pace and resourcing of the upper curriculum reforms. Less able + students would be offered a second best education in mixed-ability classes.Mr + Kelly said: "There are precious few course exemplars, there are not to my + knowledge any textbooks and very little meaningful in-service."

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