The EIS union is understood to have failed in its bid to increase schools' scope to delay the introduction of the new National 4 and 5 qualifications.
The Curriculum for Excellence management board is expected to produce a paper later this month which will in fact introduce stricter guidelines governing the circumstances in which departments can opt out of the new exams for a year.
Earlier this year, the board agreed that if a department was struggling to meet the deadline for introducing the new courses by 2013-14, it could offer pupils Intermediate 1 or 2 exams instead.
The EIS, which wants the introduction of all the new exams delayed until 2014-15, has been pressing for schools to be given greater discretion over when they introduce Nationals 4 and 5.
But TESS understands that last week's meeting of the management board agreed to tighten up, rather than widen, the criteria for "exceptional circumstances".
In most cases where a school or department says it is having difficulties, it will be offered support led by the local authority but with additional help from Education Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
An exception might be where a small department has been hit by long-term staff illness and has been unable to find suitable cover.
Larry Flanagan, EIS education convener and a member of the management board, said: "We are not happy because we wanted it left in the hands of schools to decide whether or not they could meet the targets, but the way the paper is worded, it will be more to do with local authorities' decisions."
He added that Standard grades would make a better substitute than Intermediates, because they were year-long courses. An Intermediate covers 120 hours and would have to be taught over S3-4 to give pupils the time to complete them.
"How can an individual department opt out and do Intermediates for a single year? They won't have the time," said Mr Flanagan.
Elizabeth Buie, firstname.lastname@example.org.