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Osler seeks pupil equity in Advanced Highers

The Government is to look into problems of small schools offering a range of Advanced Higher courses. The head of the inspectorate announced last weekend that there will be studies of how the new courses can be put on in schools of different kinds across the country.

Douglas Osler told a Higher Still conference in Glasgow that "no school, large or small, offers all available Highers, Certificate of Sixth Year Studies or National certificate modules. However, this is no argument for saying that a credible sixth-year qualification should not be made available in a national system" Therefore "we are currently planning studies into the implications for schools in various locations and under various circumstances of offering an appropriate range of Advanced Higher subjects" Mr Osler accepted that there is a distinction between the availability of CSYS subjects, which are not used for university entrance, and the Advanced Higher, which will be recognised by universities and could lead to admission to second-year courses.

Mr Osler would not be drawn on whether there should be sixth-year colleges to offer pupils greater choice. That is a matter for the local authorities, he said. A core of Higher and Advanced Higher students which does not disadvantage students had to be the benchmark. "This may be offered in clusters of schools, by distance learning, by separate S6 schools, by tutorial arrangments or by schoolF college links. That is for education authorities to determine" He added that most sixth-year pupils would want access to Highers and units leading to recognition of core skills as well as to Advanced Highers. Other speakers athe conference organised by Glasgow University and St Andrew's College opposed the idea of sixth-year schools which has been proposed by Elizabeth Maginnis, education convener in Edinburgh.

Tony Gavin, headteacher of St Margaret's Academy, Livingston, said: "I don't agree with the notion that the comprehensive secondary school cannot deliver Higher Still. It is not revolutionary so we can build on what we have to offer a quality programme" Iain Ovens, principal of Dundee College, said there was a danger of "turf wars" between schools and colleges. Courses at Advanced and other levels of Higher Still could and should be jointly delivered. To introduce sixth-year colleges would be "wasteful of public resources" Sally Brown, depute principal of Stirling University, said that until it was known whether all schools would offer full portfolios at Advanced Highers there were "implications for discrimination." It had been estimated that 10 per cent of pupils would take Advanced Higher and 5 per cent would use it as an entry qualification to university.

She argued that higher education had to continue to own its own courses just as school teachers sought to own theirs. Since possession of an Advanced Higher might carry a credit of less than a year's university study, fleixble entry points at different times of yearmight have to be considered.

But universities would not be uniform in attitude to Advanced Higher. "It depends on how desperate you are to get students through the door how you will treat Higher and Advanced Higher," she claimed.

She also said that universities did not yet understand the benefits of the group awards in Higher Still. As for the emphasis on core skills, universities would regard them differently from other users. They would be regarded as "intellectually generic skills".

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