DENIS Bruce (Letters, August 14) writes that “reverting to the importance of the timed written exam would eliminate in the future the confusion and chaos which has bedevilled this year's awards.”

First of all, what would have done most to avoid the “confusion and chaos” which he refers to, would have been for Covid-19 never to have appeared. However, owing to events beyond the control of anyone, this could not happen, and a solution had to be improvised and put in place, even if, almost inevitably, it had flaws. The alternative after all, because the system in place was designed to assess principally through the “timed written exam”, if we were seeking a flawless solution, would have been no qualifications at all, as exams were not possible because of Covid-19.

Secondly, I don’t share Mr Bruce’s faith in the “timed and written exam”, which might test the candidate’s ability to regurgitate lessons delivered, no matter how “imaginative and inspiring”, in a stressful context over three hours on a particular day.

In any event, as knowledge progresses, a good deal of this knowledge could well be redundant by the time the candidates are in their thirties. For this reason, Curriculum for Excellence puts emphasis on pupils becoming confident learners, for the demands of the economy and the labour market will require that they are able to develop their knowledge as required. Does a “timed and written exam” test those skills? Or would we do better to recognise that, no matter how much we might look back on the days when Scottish education was “the envy of the world”, and the “timed and written exam” was the climax of assessment, those days are gone (or going) and that we need to assess learners in a way, more appropriate to the demands they will face in their working lives. Thus, the review announced at Holyrood is to be welcomed, particularly, as while I would champion continuous assessment, I am not blind to its limitations and difficulties which need to be resolved prior to any change being introduced.

Lastly, Mr Bruce is contemptuous of continuous assessment which he claims, “very often amounts to no more than work manicured over repeated review and revision”. However, that revision itself equates to learning – in this case learning to do something better, to improve. Should our education system not recognise this, indeed is it not what education is about, or is the ability to cope with the “three-hour exam”, the be all and end all?

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

AS someone who for many years was a marker (some time ago admittedly) with SQA, I was surprised at its handling of the problem of assessment this year. It appears that centres were asked to provide estimated grades for candidates, but without supporting evidence, and then the situation was aggravated by "moderating" the grades by using an algorithm that that graded the school rather than the candidate. That the Scottish Government accepted this is as astonishing as it being produced by a body whose purpose is to assess the individual candidate: as all parties must have recognised the implicit discriminatory aspect of this approach, which implies that candidates from "good" schools will do well and those from "poor" schools will not.

A fairer system would have been to have the scripts from the prelim exams that all candidates took earlier in the year assessed by the marking teams normally employed by SQA to provide factual evidence for the grades predicted by centres. Since the circumstances this year were unusual, the moderation could have been conducted by comparing the marks so awarded to candidates in each subject to a standard deviation graph for marks for all of the cohort taking that subject over the previous five years, and adjusting accordingly.

This approach would have compared grades of this year 's cohort, based on evidence, against previous years, without reference to the performance of individual schools, this process being, in my humble opinion, highly discriminatory and presupposing that schools are incapable of improvement: a view that is the antithesis of a curriculum aiming at excellence, or even modest improvement. This shambles sends out the wrong signals to teachers, parents and students, and I would urge the SQA and the Scottish Government to reassess its priorities in regard to education.

T J Dowds, Cumbernauld.

I NOTE with interest Andy Maciver's views on our education system (“National renewal should be Covid’s enduring legacy”, The Herald, August 13). We have nine universities in Scotland offering courses in education. There are some university courses where we expect both a practical and theoretical outcome (for example, Medicine and engineering), education is also surely one of them. However, what is noticeable is that the "experts in education" only seem to materialise with their profound thoughts when things go wrong.

If they cannot use their theoretical studies to actively convince those with the power to change the system, what value does the studying have? Is turning up to explain the problem of any real value to Scottish pupils and teachers or to improving our education system?

Exam regrading; CfE (especially CfE); Pisa comparisons and (remember this one) primary school teachers who left these universities with a degree but a poor grasp of mathematics – each of these areas have seen great communal wailing and gnashing of teeth but little in the way of enlightenment for our children's futures.

So here's a thought. Why don't we reduce the number of universities offering education courses, say to three, and use the savings to invest in nursery and primary schools by providing more teachers and classroom assistants in poorer areas? A real step forward. And for those three universities let's expect or demand they actually lead, rather than being education mortuary attendants.

Bob Wallace, Glasgow G41.

Read more: Letters: There is now a strong case for backing written exams over continuous assessment