Helen Liddell, Labour's education spokeswoman, told secondary heads that its recommendations would help an incoming Labour education minister to act with "speed and confidence" on teacher training. It was part of the strategy to enhance teachers' role and status.
Mrs Liddell said: "The election of a Labour government will mean change. It will mean state comprehensive education being given the status it warrants. It will mean the teacher given back the respect, and some of the responsibilities, that vital role deserves. But change will not take place for the sake of it"
Promising that Labour would seek consensus, "however unpopular that may be with commentators", she continued: "Together, we will build on the 5-14 curriculum, addressing through that some of the difficulties that have emerged with the the first two years of secondary schools, rather than through the sterile knee-jerk response of compulsory externally-set tests for S1 and S2. We will also take time to ensure that Higher Still is implemented sensibly and with consensus."
Heads were encouraged by Mrs Liddell to involve pupils in their education. "While we carve up the school agenda, every one of us is guilty of forgetting one key group of people - the pupils. How is it that a 14-year-old can be sentenced to life for murder, a 12-year-old can give birth to a child, a 16-year-old can legally marry, and in too many of our schools, the pupils must be seen and not heard? Generations of Scots have been failed by our blind loyalty to that nostrum."
She had just returned from Denmark, she said, where pupils were involved in school councils and even pre-school children had a voice. "If the Danes can empower their three-year-olds, what on earth are we saying about ourselves if we cannot respect the 13-year-old?" Mrs Liddell was referring to HAS reservations about the idea that 13 year olds should contribute to setting their own goals. But she entered a plea for the heads to change their minds and said one benefit of listening more to young people could be that parents might not feel so excluded from the education system.
It was important to get rid of "the barbed wire fence in attitudes" that too many professionals in education put up to parents, she told delegates.