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Sustained pressure pays off handsomely

With traditional political aplomb, the education secretary has pulled a last-minute rabbit out of his hat and come up with a rescue package for teachers struggling with the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence. You have to take your hat off to Michael Russell and Larry Flanagan - the minister for coming up with an extra pound;3.5 million and the incoming general secretary of the EIS union for his relentless pressure on the government to recognise the excessive workload it put on teachers (page 5).

Weeks of hard work and skilled negotiating have gone into the deal announced on Wednesday by the cabinet secretary with the EIS at his side, from funding for additional training and support materials to supply cover - if such can be found - for teachers preparing their courses.

The sustained pressure has clearly paid off and the minister has listened, helped by the voices of the 1,834 teachers in the recent EIS survey who said they found government support for the senior phase of CfE unsatisfactory. Well, more support is now forthcoming.

Where there has been less movement - contrary to what the media are saying - is in granting the EIS request for the option of a year's delay in introducing the new qualifications. That safety net, proposed originally for individual departments in exceptional circumstances, has now been extended to individual schools - but only if a "tailored support package" fails to meet their needs. And then only if the local authority agrees it is in the pupils' interest.

The problem here is that individual teachers, departments and schools are afraid to put their hands up - hence the number of callers on radio or writers to the TESS letters and comment pages who refuse to identify their schools or authorities (page 32). And judging by the final clause of the support package - reserving the EIS's right to raise concerns about misrepresentation directly with Education Scotland - it sounds as if the union anticipates pockets of trouble.

The agreement comes late in the day but coincides with the publication this week of two reports on raising attainment - one by the government, the other by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (News Focus, pages 12-15). Neither says anything particularly new, but together they demonstrate a united front in reminding teachers that the aim of Curriculum for Excellence is to create a culture of continuous improvement and suggesting ways to achieve it.

Attainment in Scottish schools - for maths and reading, for example - has been declining in the international league tables for the past decade, particularly at the lower ability end. One way to tackle that and to raise attainment at every level is, say the reports, to invest in teachers and continuing professional development. pound;3.5 million is a good start.

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