YOU have set out a reasoned case for teachers to have discretion as to the evidence on which they rely in order to test whether pupils have absorbed teaching and how well they can demonstrate their understanding of it, rather than rely upon a faux exam schedule prescribed by the Scottish Qualification Authority ("Still time to row back on flawed assessment system", Herald View, May 15). With respect, however, the case against that discretion is the stronger case.

There is an underlying principle that a person cannot serve two masters at the same time, particularly where the interests of those two masters are in conflict with each other. The teacher primarily serves the pupil in a therapeutic capacity aiming to secure as high a school leaving grade as can be achieved. The examiner serves the public interest in an objective and reliable system of grading which restricts the level of grades awarded in each case. These objectives are in direct conflict in the case of each individual pupil and the teacher cannot be seen properly to both teach and examine the same pupil at the same time.

This is no mere theoretical proposition and the practical consequences of breaching this principle are readily apparent. Teachers cannot avoid being aware of how easy it is for their professional colleagues to present evidence that points to the highest possible grading of their pupils and may feel understandably reluctant to place their own pupils and, indeed, their own pass rates, at an unfair, comparative disadvantage. The dilemma is heightened all round by the fact that schools are publicly ranked according to the grades achieved by pupils and consequent management pressure for better ranking. These pressures promote teaching to assessment requirements rather than to the whole syllabus and means that there is neither proper teaching nor proper assessment. Those teachers who stand strong and teach to the syllabus and assess objectively are likely to impose impossible tasks upon themselves and to receive no thanks from any quarter and might even be identified as trouble makers.

Also, pupils and their parents cannot avoid being aware of the potential of other pupils and their parents to improve grades by putting personal pressure on teachers and may feel justified in taking measures to level the playing field. Spurious complaints may be one means to that end, as has been my own experience. There are other means available. The temptation should not be placed in their way.

Only external, unseen examination can achieve a gold standard of assessment, but desperate times call for desperate measures and teacher involvement in assessment seems to be inevitable in the immediate future. However, it is essential for acceptable teaching and assessment to take place that teacher discretion is excluded from, or at least kept to a minimum in, the assessment process and that objectivity is maintained as far as possible. Otherwise, there may be no proper teaching and no reliable assessment.

Michael Sheridan, Glasgow.


ON reading Scottish energy journalism recently it seems the Scottish Renewables erroneous announcement that “97.4 per cent of Scotland’s electricity consumption [was] met by renewables in 2020” is morphing into “Scotland produces 97.4% of its electricity from renewables", implying a daily achievement.

Both statements are wrong and the public would be forgiven for believing renewables have solved Scotland’s low-carbon energy challenges, which is a convenient message ahead of COP 26.

In the 39 days from April 11, including throughout the last seven, UK onshore and offshore wind generation has been in collapse for 21, which is 54% of the time and in near-collapse for at least another three: these in addition to earlier collapses this year. Scotland was importing electricity on all 21 days.

At midday today,Wednesday (May 19) UK wind was providing 2.3% of our needs and Scotland was importing 1680MW, which is equivalent to 1.5 Peterhead power stations.

During our not-infrequent periods of high atmospheric pressure Scotland is, relatively, one of the most imports-dependent electricity users in Europe, which situation will get worse with the decommissioning of Hunterston from January and Torness by the end of the decade.

There might be a growing possibility of challenges emerging that some renewables industry-funded promotional bodies may be exhibiting “suppressio veri” ,which in contract law means suppression of the truth by the omission or suppression of key facts?

DB Watson, Cumbernauld.

* NICOLA Sturgeon has informed us that climate change and the COP26 conference in Glasgow are top priorities for her this year. Really? Climate change is of course vitally important for us all, including Ms Sturgeon, who'll be dependent on Green votes to pass her budgets in Holyrood. But why is the COP26 conference a priority for her? It's a UK conference, organised by Westminster and led by the Prime Minister, that happens to be taking place in Glasgow. Considering how Ms Sturgeon daily disparaged Boris Johnson during her election campaign, she should count herself lucky to get an invitation.

Martin Redfern, Melrose.


THAT the fight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua may take place in Saudi Arabia ("As Fury meets AJ, money doesn’t just talk... it swears", The Herald, May 18) seems perfectly appropriate. A brutal sport under a veneer of respectability in a brutal country seeking a veneer of respectability.

Alastair Clark, Stranraer.