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EIS fears political interference after Higher exam change

Scotland's largest teaching union has warned of political interference in the school curriculum, after the Scottish government announced this week that the new Higher English exam would include at least one question on Scottish texts.

EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith said his union believed all pupils should have the opportunity to study good literature, "no matter what its provenance".

But he warned: "We should all remain cautious, however, regarding political direction of what is taught in our schools and the degree to which this is desirable."

Larry Flanagan, the union's education convener and a principal teacher of English, said the move "flies in the face of everything Curriculum for Excellence is talking about, which is professional judgement in the classroom and teachers taking responsibility".

The EIS supported Scottish literature being mandatory in coursework planning, but insisting on it being part of the exam risked narrowing study to preparation for only one question, instead of it "permeating the whole course", he said.

The government's announcement, made on Burns Night, means that from 2014- 15, all English Higher exams will include at least one question on Scottish texts.

The commitment follows a recommendation by the government's Scottish studies working group, which will meet next week to discuss extending it to the new National 5 exam.

"We want our children and young people to have the chance to learn about our literary tradition and to inspire the future generations of Scottish writers," said education secretary Michael Russell.

Scotland's Makar, Liz Lochhead, added that as the texts studied could be in English, Scots English or Scots and could come from any historical period, the commitment could "only benefit our future citizens to so engage with their own culture".

julia.belgutay@tess.co.uk.

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