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HMI discounts scare stories on Higher Still

CRISIS? What crisis? There is mostly sound development and steady progress in implementing post-16 curriculum reforms, HM Inspectors state in a remarkably upbeat report to the Higher Still National Liaison Committee.

They flatly scotch teacher accusations of a shambles in upper secondary and report that nine out of 10 courses are good or very good. Pupils enjoy them and there is no sign of assessment overload.

A survey between last August and January of 65 departments in 16 secondaries across the country revealed strong support for the reforms, inspectors told the committee. They found solid evidence of good practice in key areas such as curriculum organisation, guidance and communication to parents. Particular praise is reserved for the quality of courses.

"Ninety per cent of courses in S5-S6 were thought by HMI to be of good or very good quality. Sixty per cent were good. Courses were usually based on appropriate texts and other commercial resources, supplemented by nationally produced materials and other resources produced by tachers themselves." Ninety per cent of teaching and learning was good or very good.

The report adds: "Assessment practices were generally in line with national advice. Few, if any, instances of weaknesses in teaching and learning were a result of bilevel classes."

Schools were complementing the new Highers with a range of Intermediate courses. National Certificate modules were also "used to good effect", although the curriculum below Higher level is still described as "narrow" in some schools.

All schools were judged to be good or very good in keeping parents abreast of developments, while the quality of curricular and vocational guidance was good or very good in every school inspected. Only two schools failed to match up in monitoring pupil attainment. Learning support was good or very good in every school.

"Effective induction programmes for S5 pupils were a feature in most schools," the inspectors report. Pupils were using ICT to tap into guidance databases for information on national qualifications and careers.

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