Phasing in Higher Still

WHILE THE offer of the Education Minister to set up a committee with trade union membership in order to oversee the self-phasing of Higher Still is worthy of detailed consideration, I regret that the omens are not good for an outcome which will safeguard the interests of teachers and pupils.

After the 1984-87 teachers' dispute, various attempts were made to control the phasing in of Standard grade, with the Educational Institute of Scotland's advice at the time being to "measure readiness in terms of availability of materials and resources, and in-service training of teachers".

Nationally, a joint EIS-Convention of Scottish Local Authorities group was set up, assisted later at regional level by local authority-union monitoring groups. Very little of substance was achieved by this machinery, and there were repeated failures to meet the terms of what had been agreed, which included abandonment of the "cascade" model of in-service training.

The outcome for teachers was that "self-phasing" became a discredited and corrupted term, such that bitter memories from that time still linger. The local monitoring groups limped on as talking shops into the 1990s and then gradually disappeared.

In the later nineties any attempt at self-phasing will require to recognise previous failure, but will require to do so within a much altered local authority structure and with substantial devolution to school managers.

Until now it has seemed that the minister has shared the mindset of the Higher Still administrators. The challenge to Helen Liddell is to outline in detail what she is now proposing and to prove beyond doubt that this will provide safeguards at the level of individual subject areas.

Peter Dickson Ardlui Gardens, Milngavie

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