East Renfrewshire's decision to delay the introduction of the new National 4 and 5 qualifications until 2014-15 could open the floodgates for other schools to follow suit.
The Educational Institute of Scotland and Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association have applauded the move, saying it would give teachers an additional year to familiarise themselves with the new courses and to reduce workload.
The EIS's education committee will today hear calls from Larry Flanagan, outgoing education convener and incoming general secretary, for all schools to be given the option to offer Intermediate 1 and 2 qualifications for a further year - 2013-14 - as an interim measure.
"I would be very surprised if other authorities did not now look at the situation and consider taking the same steps," said SSTA general secretary Ann Ballinger.
East Renfrewshire has decided that its current S2 pupils will follow Intermediate 1 and 2 courses through to summer 2014; its current S1s will be its first pupils to pick up the new National 4 and 5 qualifications. Elsewhere, schools are expected to follow government guidance, with current S2 pupils sitting the first set of National 4 and 5 exams in 2013- 14.
In 2005, East Renfrewshire became the only authority to drop Standard grades altogether. Most schools currently offer a mixture of Standard grades and Intermediates, which puts them in a more difficult position in the run-up to the introduction of National 4 and 5 as the Scottish Qualifications Authority will continue to offer Intermediate exams for two years in parallel with National 4 and 5, but no Standard grades.
Guidance from the CfE management board last year stated explicitly that only in "exceptional circumstances", such as long-term staff illness or inability to appoint a department head, could schools delay the introduction of National 4 and 5 exams.
However, East Renfrewshire's director of education, John Wilson, told TESS that his secondary heads did not feel they had "enough to look at" when it came to Nationals 4 and 5.
He had discussed his plan with Education Scotland's chief executive, Bill Maxwell, and learning director Gill Robinson, before putting it to committee this month.
Both Dr Maxwell and education secretary Michael Russell said they understood the "unique" context of East Renfrewshire's qualifications policy.
Mr Flanagan, who represents the EIS on the CfE management board, has been pressing it to give stronger backing to the 3+3 model, under which pupils follow a broad general education from S1-3 and only pick up exam courses in S4-6. A number of schools are opting for the 2+2+2 model, where they choose their National 4 and 5 subjects at the end of S2, start studying them in S3 and sit their first exams in S4, followed by Highers and Advanced Highers in S5-6.
THE TWO MODELS
The 3+3 model at Larry Flanagan's school, Hillhead High, Glasgow
S1-3 receive a broad general education.
S4 pupils choose six or seven subjects which they follow for two years.
S4 school-leavers. do National 4s (internally assessed).
Others do either National 5s or Highers over two years, depending on how well they do in Nabs.
Those who sit Highers in S5 can sit Advanced Highers in S6.
Those who do National 5s in S5 can sit Highers in S6
East Renfrewshire model
End of S2, pupils choose up to eight subjects.
S4 Intermediate 1 or 2 exams, depending on ability.
S5 up to five Highers.
S6 up to three Advanced Highers.