Liddell relaxed despite boycott

HELEN LIDDELL, the Education Minister, stood firm this week on next year's introduction of Higher Still, insisting that she has done more than was expected of her in bailing out the reforms with a Pounds 24 million rescue package.

The TES Scotland meanwhile has learnt that "dual running" of the existing Higher and the new courses, emulating the replacement of O grade by Standard grade, was considered and costed by the Scottish Office before the year's postponement of Higher Still last May.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority considers dual running would be "messy and confusing". But flexibility over phasing in next year's changes is likely to be the only area for compromise.

The Educational Institute of Scotland, which met the Secretary of State and Mrs Liddell on Wednesday, continues to claim the problem is more fundamental than money. The union, anticipating a massive endorsement in its boycott ballot, insists teachers have not been given the time or training to do the job properly.

Mrs Liddell's pleas that pupils, especially those not aiming for Higher courses, will be the only victims of a boycott or a third postponement are countered by the unions which argue that a botched job will do more harm.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, says it has mounting evidence that few if any courses will be ready by next June and has now joined the EIS in authorising a ballot aimed at boycotting next year's implementation, but not the preparation.

Mrs Liddell's aides continue to insist, however, that materials are arriving in schools and that most subjects are unchanged in methodology and content. They believe complaints about Higher Still are a "lightning conductor" for other grievances.

Glasgow said this week that the Pounds 3 million available to the city this session amounts to Pounds 117 a teacher. Edinburgh said it would invest Pounds 350,000 of its own money.

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