‘Teachers must not be forced into new Highers’

SCOTLAND’S largest teaching union has warned councils they must not “undermine” an agreement with the Scottish Government on the introduction of the new Higher exam.

Pupils are expected to sit the revised Higher in the spring of 2015. Picture: Stephen Mansfield
Pupils are expected to sit the revised Higher in the spring of 2015. Picture: Stephen Mansfield
Pupils are expected to sit the revised Higher in the spring of 2015. Picture: Stephen Mansfield

Last month, education secretary Mike Russell bowed to pressure from teachers and said schools could delay the planned 2014-15 implementation of the revised exam, as part of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has now warned that, despite the agreement, some directors of education are putting pressure on schools to keep to the original timetable, despite teachers’ reservations.

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Pupils are expected to sit the revised Higher in the spring of 2015. However, the Scottish Government has agreed to give some schools a further year to prepare after teachers complained of being unready due to the extra workload.

In a bulletin to its members, the EIS said it would be “entirely inappropriate” for councils to hold teachers to the original timetable.

“Some local authorities, possibly some schools, will be keen to persuade teachers to support the current timetable,” it said.

“However, whilst this may necessitate a professional dialogue around options, the EIS is clear in our belief that it would be entirely inappropriate for any directorate or school managers to undermine the nationally agreed position by instructing schools to present for the new Higher in 2014-15, irrespective of the professional view of staff.Where this possibility exists, members are urged to document at all stages the progress of discussions and to report matters to the EIS.”

Parents’ groups have already expressed dismay at the prospect of a staggered introduction of the new Higher, warning such a move will cause confusion.

The new exam is designed to follow on from the National qualifications, introduced in schools this year to replace Standard Grades and Intermediates. Councillor Douglas Chapman, education spokesman for the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), said: “Cosla has been consistent in its support in principle for Curriculum for Excellence.

“As recently as last week at our education executive group, there was nothing but support for CfE and maintaining the timetable for introduction of the new Highers.

“Any deferral on bringing forward the new Highers will, in Cosla’s view, be as part of a pragmatic solution to exceptional circumstances in schools.

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“A decision to introduce any flexibility will be taken at a strategic level by local authorities and must be made for sound educational reasons and in the best interests of the student.”

Learning minister Alasdair Allan said: “The new Highers, available from next session, are designed to prepare and support our young people for the changing world that lies ahead of them.

“However, where a principal teacher, for example, considers that the best interests of their young people will be served by using the existing Higher for a further year, then they should be able to work with their school, local authority and, critically, the parent body to come to a decision.

“It is important that schools engage with parents to ensure they have confidence in arrangements for their children. The crucial point is that the interests of young people are at the heart of any decision.”

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