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The two options on offer

David Henderson reports from Perth on the pressure building up in staffrooms to harden the union's case for a 'radical adjustment' to internal assessment

INTERNAL assessment benefits students and should be retained, according to the evidence submitted to the Scottish Executive's review of Higher Still. The problem lies in cutting the total burden of testing on both students and teachers.

Proposals which emerged from the National Qualifications Steering Group, meeting ahead of the Educational Institute of Scotland's conference, include two options, one of which has to be implemented if the assessment burden is to be reduced, ministerial advisers say.

Under option A, "candidates could achieve a course award by success in the external assessment, with unit certification available as an option. This would enable a reduction in internal assessment for candidates who did not wish to acquire unit certification."

Under option B, "candidates could achieve an ungraded course award by demonstrating they had achieved the full rage of unit learning outcomes, with an optional external examination available for candidates who wished to achieve a graded award. This would enable a reduction in external assessment, and in related internal assessment (such as the production of evidence for appeals)."

The steering group agreed that either option would change the "underlying design principles" of the national qualifications and therefore needed further consultation with ministerial backing.

In the short-term, the group agreed to carry out a review of assessment before the end of the year on a "course by course basis" with a limit of one assessment per unit. Initial focus will be on the largest subjects, a move to appease disgruntled teachers of English and communication.

Teachers will also be given examples to establish a "clearer understanding of the volume and type of assessment required".

It also accepts the need to clarify the purpose of National Assessment Bank items, increasing consistency and improving quality and availability.

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