Thumbs-down for new folio

7th May 2010 at 01:00

I write as an English teacher with 39 years' experience of delivering Higher English, and have seen it through the revisions of the 1990s, 2000 and 2002. The latest revision - currently in draft form but being pushed through with precipitate haste for delivery in 2010-11 - is a dangerous backward step.

One of the main reasons why the folio element of Higher English was removed in 2002 was its potential for unfairness. Pupils from educated and advantaged backgrounds could call on the help of family members and tutors to correct and refine work prepared at home, which made up 40 per cent of the available marks for Higher English.

Once the folio was removed, there was a level playing field for all, as 100 per cent of the marks depended upon a very secure and rigorous exam. Universities and employers could be sure that there was no opportunity for plagiarism, undue levels of assistance and so on.

Now, a new folio element is to be introduced, worth 20 per cent of the marks. If the folio was considered unfair, why then should it be reintroduced now?

The other reason given for its removal in 2002 was the undue workload it placed on pupils and teachers. It seems to me perverse that we should reintroduce the folio when pupils already struggle to get through the enormous amount of work involved in Higher English; and when teachers would have to contend with an increased Higher marking load, at the same time as they are striving to introduce Curriculum for Excellence in the climate of local authority cutbacks.

The new Higher English courses will start to be delivered in some schools, perhaps as early as the end of May. It is not too late to halt these "draft" proposals, and I would urge Education Secretary Michael Russell to intervene to ask the Scottish Qualifications Authority to think again about these proposed changes.

Annie Rayner, Fowler Street, Tranent.

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