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Tests breakthrough 'for majority of students'

THE Educational Institute of Scotland, facing a grassroots revolt on internal assessment, was claiming a major breakthrough this week in its battle to cut class tests to a minimum.

In her presidential speech to the union's annual conference in Perth yesterday (Thursday), Margaret Nicol said options for change agreed by the National Qualifications Steering Group on Tuesday mean that "for the majority of students in our schools, internal assessment as we have known it, will cease to exist".

The recommendations will now go to Jack McConnell, Education Minister. Mr McConnell has made clear his determination to reduce assessment to ease the burden on pupils as well as those on teachers.

A spokesperson said Mr McConnell was anxious to find "quick fix" solutions aimed at improving efficiency and best practice in handling assessment. But he will consult on more radical solutions suggested by the steering group, which havecaused anxiety in further education colleges.

The EIS is pressing for "a twin-track approach" in which pupils taking full-year courses would take only the external exam while those not on such courses would be internally assessed. The second option is said to be similar except that, to cater for the different needs of FE colleges, students not on full courses would earn credits for their units.

"In either case, internal assessment would become at best diagnostic for the majority of school pupils," Mrs Nicol said.

The EIS president acknowledged that these changes could not be brought about before August next year, which would do nothing to reduce the immediate assessment burdens. She called on the Education Minister to take steps now.

The steering group has meanwhile agreed there should be an urgent review of the internal assessment needs on a subject-by-subject basis.

Mountain to climb, page 4

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