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Teachers criticise limited list of Scottish exam texts

TEACHERS have described a list of Scottish texts to be used in future English exams as limited.

The attack comes after The Herald revealed the novels, plays, poems and short stories chosen for the new compulsory question on Scottish literature.

Pupils sitting Higher English from 2014/15 will answer questions on works by Robert Burns as well as more modern writing by Liz Lochhead, Janice Galloway, John Byrne and John McGrath.

Candidates studying new National 5 exams, which replace Standard Grade in 2013/14, will face questions on a range of literature from Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped to poetry by Edwin Morgan and the 2006 novel The Testament of Gideon Mack, by James Robertson.

However, Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, described the list, drawn up by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), as "very restrictive". He said: "Whatever we may think of the Scottish requirement, surely in the climate of the new curriculum the concept of a narrow list is wrong. We believe this list mentality runs contrary to curriculum philosophy and consider that many seminal texts are ignored."

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, which represents secondary headteachers, also said the list would limit choice.

"There is still unease that it is not the choice of the SQA to have a compulsory question and we will be keeping a close eye on the impact of this on the breadth of learning of literature in Scottish schools," he said.

However, Robert Quinn, from the SQA's qualifications development team, said the body would revisit the list in future years to ensure it did not become too predictable.

"We will freshen it up every few years so it does not become too static" he said.

Meanwhile, Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, questioned the initial announcement to have a compulsory question, revealed by Education Secretary Michael Russell after a recommendation from the Scottish Studies Working Group.

"Serious questions have to be asked about the process by which the decision was made to make Scottish texts mandatory," she said. "Parents and teachers would like to know why this was the case and that is something which the Scottish Government has, as yet, been unable to answer."

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