CAN you imagine the furore if the attainment gap had narrowed by 20% in one year? Of course, there will be disappointed pupils – that is no different from any other year – but the results are always moderated. Remember too there have always been advantaged pupils, with tutors, lots of help, good technology at home etc etc – it was ever thus and always will be.

Do not forget the prelim exam is done when only half or at best two-thirds of the course is completed – and any teacher will give the best possible outcome for a pupil.

For the appeals system to be fair the prelim paper and marking scheme should be submitted to SQA and this should be moderated against a final exam. We all know there can be easier prelims and more difficult ones just like in the final exam when the pass mark is itself moderated against previous years to adjust for degree of difficulty.

Too few passes, too many passes – whichever side you come down on, some will be unhappy.

There is no point in giving passes that do not reflect ability. This just adds to the failure rate in the first year of university or college.

Winifred McCartney


THE use of exams as a measure of human potential has long been controversial and we have the opportunity to revisit this debate for radical solutions.

Exams are a blunt instrument, continuous assessment is increasingly substituted for the “one strike and you’re out” approach of the exam. However, the problem is not just the system but our attitudes to exams.

They are seen now as a once and forever verdict on a person’s future. I taught for 40 years in further education colleges and universities. Students who had not passed their exams the first time often returned to learning with greater focus. Not everyone is ready to determine their path in life at the age of 15. Instead we need respected alternative routes which suit how people develop at different speeds and in different ways.

What we need is well-resourced and valued college education after school age, open access institutions, part-time courses which are seen as a legitimate way of pursuing one’s education.

It should be enjoyable, not a burden or series of hurdles. Moreover we should be encouraged and enabled to pursue it throughout our lives.

Cathie Lloyd


REGARDING your story “Scots study makes MS ‘Holy Grail’ find”, The National, August 5), it is interesting to note that 60 years ago, a study treating multiple sclerosis with oral antidiabetic medication together with the diabetic diet of the day was already being described as a success in The Journal of the American Medical Association (Sawyer GT, 1960).

At the same time, two Austrian doctors were doing a study, which was reported in the Wiener klinische Wochenschrift (K Eckel and W Lutz, 1961): Professor Dr Eckel, head of neurology at the hospital in Bad Ischl and Dr Wolfgang Lutz, consultant in internal medicine at that time in Upper Austria. This two-year study showed that, except in late stages and where there was progressive decline, multiple sclerosis could be brought to a halt and sometimes reversed just by diet and without diabetic medication.

In fact, in many early cases (of less than six years standing) complete remission was experienced and, if patients kept to the diet, they stayed well in the long-term. This was achieved merely by sufficiently reducing the daily amount of carbohydrates eaten, together with the consumption of enough protein and fat to promote self-healing. Dr Lutz showed again and again during his long clinical experience that the body’s proper maintenance and self-repair mechanisms are stimulated in both obvious and unexpected ways by a correct change in diet.

Given the somewhat adverse opinion as to such a composition of our daily menu, it is to be hoped that this important clinical finding as to multiple sclerosis is not overlooked when research is planned, as it may indeed offer a significant pointer to finding the “MS Holy Grail”.

Valerie Waters

East Lothian

WE hear on the news that the explosion in Beirut, while huge, was just one tenth of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. That bomb killed around 200,000 Japanese civilians while wiping out the entire city. One significant building left standing is used today as a memorial and more noticeably on this 75th anniversary of the explosion.

The notion now that the retention of nuclear bombs by certain countries including England (Scotland reserves the right to be excluded) serves as a deterrent is obviously and absolutely ridiculous. Now the whole world has seen what a significant explosion such as in Beirut can do, we can magnify that 10,000 times if any nuclear country exploded a hydrogen bomb on land.

North Korea want to explode one of its bombs, as a test, in the Pacific ocean. We can only imagine the possibility of at least a tidal wave as a consequence. Heaven help any shipping anywhere within even a hundred miles!

It would seem incredible for this to be allowed to happen by world powers. It would seem even more incredible for new talks on any nuclear disarmament NOT to take place, given the damage to Beirut, and the deaths, injuries, and thousands of people left homeless. Let’s trust our independence is the catalyst for the fast removal of all such nuclear weapons from our shores, including the bomb-carrying submarines.

Alan Magnus-Bennett