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It's uncanny, really. We always knew Morris Simpson was likely to be one of the most reliable commentators on Scottish educational affairs, but we didn't realise that he was prescient as well.

We can do no better than quote his School Diary of March 28:

"Unfortunately, I was unable to attend last Saturday's Higher English conference, owing to domestic commitments, but my principal teacher filled me in on the day's proceedings.

"'It was enjoyable and frustrating all at once, Morris,' Simon Young explained. 'Enjoyable, because you realise you're not alone: there wasn't a single teacher there who didn't think that this year's arrangements are a disgrace to an examination of the full range of English skills at Higher.

And frustrating, because we can't do a bloody thing about it!'

"'But at least it might enforce change for next year,' I tried to look on the positive side.

"He shrugged. 'Maybe. But what about this year's generation of candidates? Two interpretation passages, two literature essays and that's it, really.

That's what they'll be judged on after five years of study. And the depressing thing is that every single person there was admitting that, because of the exam structure, the average pass rate in English grades is certain to go down in 2003. And then there'll be a humongous bloody outcry in the August newspapers, so they'll have to change the exam again!'"

One teacher at the meeting, the ever-reliable Morris reported, suggested that there should be a new exam, like Gaul, in three parts - a literature paper, a paper to test close reading plus textual analysis of language and one to unlock creative skills by producing a composition. All would be externally graded.

"You mean, she was suggesting a paper more or less exactly the same as the Higher that was offered 18 years ago when I started teaching?" Morris enquired in his best investigative reporting style.

The veteran staffroom watcher shook his head in disbelief. "They'd never get an exam like that past the FE squad again," he commented.

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