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An extra pound;24m - but is it enough?;Higher still

Neil Munro reports on the Education Minister's new funding package for Higher Still

The Education Minister accompanied her Higher Still funding package last week with an admission that "there is apprehension over the delivery of such a critical change".

But, making the announcement during a visit to St Ninian's High in Eastwood, Helen Liddell said she had "listened to the anxieties of teachers, responded in rather a dramatic way and acted in good faith to address the anxieties".

The pound;24 million extra money is intended to free teachers and lecturers from class commitments to concentrate on preparations for the change-over next August. It is also intended to fund short-term secondments of specialist teachers to help with staff training, local reprographic costs for materials, supplementary IT resources, and continuing support to teachers during the introduction of the additional Higher Still course levels.

Early indications that schools would get pound;15 million over the next three years from the "excellence fund" set up under the Treasury's comprehensive spending review proved accurate.

The review also earmarked pound;5.25m for further education colleges over the same three-year period to 2002.

Mrs Liddell's achievement has been to find another pound;3m for schools this year and pound;1m for colleges. This brings the four-year total to pound;18m for schools and pound;6.25m for FE, the equivalent of pound;7,500 per secondary school this year building to pound;45,000 and pound;21,000 per college totalling pound;132,000 each by 2002.

The Minister said: "I hope this extra funding, which makes yet another major contribution towards the process of bedding in Higher Still, will go a long way towards convincing classroom teachers that we will work in partnership to help them achieve successful implementation."

The Government's first test comes this weekend as the executive council of the Educational Institute of Scotland considers whether to hold a boycott ballot (see page 1).

The council of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association will consider its position on October 3, while the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers has been surveying its members' views on whether they should be ballotted or not.

The Professional Association of Teachers says it is suspending judgment until it sees the detail of how the extra money is to be used. The non-striking union is threatening a boycott on workload grounds and is seeking a meeting with Mrs Liddell.

Barbara Clark, assistant general secretary of the SSTA, said there was still great unhappiness among her members at the late appearance and quality of the support materials, which will require considerable work to adapt.

She also pointed out that, at around pound;100 a day for supply cover to release teachers for training, the average pound;7,500 available this year for each secondary would allow a typical school of 70 teachers to be freed from their class commitments for just one day.

Mrs Liddell said she recognised that teachers' concerns were about more than money, which lay behind her decision to establish a national Higher Still helpline for secondary teachers. This will complement the enquiry service already operated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (0141 242 2214).

The Government's campaign to win over teachers and inform parents will be taken to the check-out queue with an approach to the supermarket chains to stock leaflets explaining the reform.

Mrs Liddell also confirmed that education authorities would be able to shut secondary schools for another two in-service days specifically for staff development on Higher Still, a move already announced in June.

The Minister's announcement tried to allay workload fears by confirming once again the Government's expectation that "in the short term, schools and colleges will offer the Higher Still version of their current provision.

"Further development into new and exciting areas offered by Higher Still will occur over time in the light of local demand and locally available resources." `

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