English teachers threaten mutiny

31st October 1997 at 00:00
Growing resentment about Higher Still came to a head at an in-service meeting in Edinburgh this week when more than 120 English teachers signed a petition warning that arrangements for the subject are "unworkable".

After the fractious meeting at St Augustine's High School, one participant said: "There is a general anger and powerlessness felt by class teachers, including principal teachers, at the apparent unwillingness of the people responsible to come and answer our questions and deal with the legitimate objections to the proposals."

The petition, which has attracted more signatures since the meeting, requests an urgent meeting with members of the Higher Still Development Unit "qualified to discuss our concerns".

A principal teacher present said: "The anger is constant. It just so happens that the representatives who were there to talk on the more mechanistic elements of the proposals found themselves the lightning conductors for the anger felt."

The co-ordinator for the day, George Reid, adviser in English and communication, said: "The meeting had been arranged to deal with detailed aspects such as assessment but many people wanted to debate first principles. " More teachers turned up than had enrolled for the session.

The main speaker, Janey Mauchline, English adviser in South Lanarkshire, was shaken by the reception but had "behaved professionally and admirably", Mr Reid said. Ms Mauchline declined to comment.

Many of the teachers' concerns were drawn up in a document prepared at a meeting two weeks ago. Fourteen English departments in Edinburgh and the other Lothian authorities were represented and another 10 added their support.

The feeling is that, given the lack of consultation at Government level, the new date for starting Higher Still, August 1999, is in doubt. "There is general unhappiness that Higher English is being 'Scotvecicised'," another principal teacher says. "English is less content based than other subjects and is not suited to this linear approach."

The document says there will be a major increase in an "already overcharged workload" and warns of too few resources, a loss of teaching time, "dubious assessment methods" and a "lowering of standards".

Ian Glen, Edinburgh's curriculum advice manager, said meetings had been held on the same day for all Higher Still subjects. With the exception of English, they had all gone very well.

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