I read Lucy Hodges' article ("Above and beyond for A-levels", Education, 24 September) concerning the future of English sixth forms with an ever- growing sense of familiarity, for the system described was almost identical to what I experienced in my Scottish school. It appears that the problems discussed can be, at least partly, resolved by reference to the Scottish system. Would life be easier for the new breed of sixth formers? Certainly not, if my experience in Scotland is anything to go by; fifth year (lower sixth), when about five Highers are taken, is undeniably stressful, since there is only one year to cover the syllabus and prepare for the exams - emphatically different things. Yet it is clear that - to answer Professor Chris Robson's point - five or even six subjects can successfully be "fitted in" in terms of both teaching and examination. On the other hand, since Highers are the "official" school-leaving exams, sixth year (upper sixth) is considerably less pressured, allowing the further specialisation involved in A-level without the sheer terror of knowing one's results will count for everything.
There are major advantages to having external examinations between Standard Grades/GCSEs and university application. Hard results can be more confidently compared than predicted grades can.
Helen S Brown