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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Pledge to reduce exams burden
Exams sign
Higher Still aims to remove some of the emphasis on exams
Scotland's education minister has promised action to reduce the burden placed on teachers and pupils by assessments for the new Higher Still exams.

Cathy Jamieson said "unnecessary duplication" was one of the areas being tackled as part of an effort to reduce workload.

But she has rejected the two options for change which were the subject of consultations last year.

Ms Jamieson said that half of those consulted did not favour either the complete removal of internal assessments or the scrapping of the end of term exam.

We have agreed to place strict limits on the time spent on each element of external and particularly internal assessment

Cathy Jamieson
Education Minister

"They felt the burden of assessment on candidates and teachers could be sufficiently reduced without changing the formal status of internal or external assessment," she said.

"There was also a call for stability in the system and time to allow the new system to bed in."

Many of those questioned said there was a need to re-establish credibility in the exam system.

"Having considered all of the views put forward I believe that we need to find a solution that significantly reduces the burden of assessment, while maintaining standards, of both internal and external assessment," the minister said.

'Eliminate duplication'

"Like many of those who responded, I recognise that the system will only work if we make substantial improvements to the current system and make significant reductions in the workload on candidates and teachers.

"I am determined to ensure that we make these changes. Work has already started and we intend to complete this."

The moves follow a review of the assessment arrangements conducted by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

Cathy Jamieson
Cathy Jamieson: "Substantial improvements"

"We have agreed to place strict limits on the time spent on each element of external and particularly internal assessment," said Ms Jamieson.

"In many courses this will result in the time required for assessment being reduced by well over 50%.

"Particular care has been taken to identify and eliminate unnecessary duplication."

Ms Jamieson said a consultation exercise had highlighted the need for a major reduction in the workload associated with the exams.

Union complaints

The survey looked at how to address the overall issue of internal assessment, a key feature of the system which is intended to remove some of the emphasis on exams.

Scotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, union has complained about the "intolerable workload" generated by the exams, which were introduced in 1999.

Teachers have threatened to strike

Last year, teachers threatened to strike unless the situation improved.

Ms Jamieson said ministers had already endorsed the changes proposed for the first two batches of subjects.

This endorsement has now been extended to all the remaining subjects.

During her speech to the Scottish Parliament, Ms Jamieson also insisted that arrangements for this year's exams were in place.

She also stressed her commitment to the future of the Standard Grade exams.

See also:

25 Apr 02 | Scotland
EIS presses for Higher Still answer
27 Jul 01 | Scotland
New Highers 'penalising' pupils
08 Jun 01 | Scotland
Teachers vote for boycott
15 Aug 00 | Scotland
EIS seeks Higher Still review
21 Nov 98 | Education
Union confirms exam reforms boycott
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