Boards want to be led from the centre

5th January 1996 at 00:00
School boards are centralist when it comes to the curriculum. A large majority of those asked by the Scottish School Board Association wanted all teaching materials for Higher Still to be produced by the Scottish Office.

Thirty boards responding to an SSBA questionnaire said that materials for every subject should be centrally prepared and sent to every school. Only six boards disagreed and a further three had no opinion.

According to David Hutchison, president of SSBA, the Higher Still programme needs further explanation in simple language. "There is need for more information," he commented, following the association's survey. "The message still requires to be put across to parents."

Boards are concerned that pupils will have too limited choice among Higher Still subjects and the levels at which they can be studied. The SSBA concludes: "One of many considerations would be the use of modern technology to allow all pupils access to all subjects. Moving children to other schools to allow greater access would depend on the particular circumstances and whether or not there is another secondary in the area."

Lothian Region's response to the Higher Still documents is prefaced by a warning from Elizabeth Reid, director of education, that "detailed costing exercises need to be undertaken, as a matter of urgency, to quantify the national resources required to implement the changes and the considerable staff development required. It will then be essential that the necessary resources are made available by the Scottish Office within the timescales envisaged".

Mrs Reid's report to the education committee also warns about the "particular challenges" for classes operating at two levels of Higher Still, which she expects to be prevalent.

Flexible learning materials of high quality will be needed, along with staff development, well before 1998 when Higher Still comes on stream. The proposals for pupil guidance will also impose heavy demands on staff time and resources.

Welcoming the attention devoted to special needs, Mrs Reid is concerned that with the small number of pupils working at Foundation level, schools would have difficulty in providing enough courses.

It is also "a matter of regret that the needs of students with high ability in aspects of the curriculum, but who have specific numeracy or communication difficulties, have been apparently disregarded. "The community education service in particular will require guidance in this area."

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