David Henderson reports from the educational researchers' annual conference in Perth
Bouquets should be handed out to the people who developed Access and Intermediate courses, Alison Closs, an Edinburgh University researcher, said.
For the first time, students with special educational needs were being given appropriate courses that they and their teachers enjoyed. There was also progression and recognised qualifications.
Mrs Closs said: "There is a long road of children with learning difficulties not being empowered by the curriculum. It was said Standard grade was for everyone but 10-20 per cent of children achieved little or nothing from it.
"Even in the 5-14 programme, children with learning difficulties were seen as an add-on and lots of them have spent their school careers working up to level A," she said.
Evidence from the early years of the Higher Still programme provided encouragement for the inclusion agenda. Special schools were particularly enthusiastic and mainstream schools and colleges found the Access and Intermediate courses valuable.
"I would be willing to hand out bouquets to the Scottish Qualifications Authority and the Scottish Executive Education Department for their support in continuing to develop Access 1, 2 and 3 courses. Higher Still is making sure more students have access to the curriculum," Mrs Closs said.
Further studies would show whether students with special needs were taught side by side or in separate classrooms. It would be a test of increasing inclusiveness, she added.