Education Secretary Michael Russell has succumbed to pressure and provided pound;3.5 million worth of training and support materials for the new National 4 and 5 courses, following weeks of detailed negotiations with the EIS union.
Teachers will also receive two additional in-service days - probably after the summer - and every principal subject teacher will have access to an expanded programme of events delivered by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
But the Scottish government has faced down pressure to allow a wholescale one-year delay in implementation of the new courses. Only after receiving intensive support from Education Scotland can struggling individual departments or schools ask to do Intermediate exams instead of the new Nationals 4 and 5 in 2013-14.
In an internal document, the EIS concedes it lost the fight for an across- the-board delay. A recent parliamentary debate and overwhelming vote against such an option was the final nail in the coffin. "It was clear that little progress was likely to be made on this front, especially as the SQA were adamant that Standard grade could not be revived," states the EIS bulletin to its secondary members.
Mr Russell sought to play down newspaper headlines about "classroom chaos", insisting secondary schools were not facing "a significant number of problems".
He added: "I have to take it seriously when a trade union comes and says there is a need, particularly a union which has taken a constructive part in this."
That remark will be seen as a jibe at the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, whose general secretary, Ann Ballinger, said: "This crisis situation is widespread and, contrary to assertions made this week, not limited to `a few departments'."
She added: "The association welcomes the additional funding and the overdue promise of course materials for National 4 and 5. Unfortunately, teachers needed this material some months ago. Even if action is taken to release already-identified staff this week, there will be significant delays."
The Association of Directors of Education in Scotland issued a statement on behalf of all 32 authorities - including East Renfrewshire - welcoming the support package. ADES president Glenn Rodger said: "We will be working closely with our local and national partners in education to ensure that we take full advantage of the additional resources."
The Scottish Parent Teacher Council said there remained "significant concerns" which were not tackled in the new plans - most critically the issue of effective communication with parents.
"There is also a clear challenge relating to the deliverability of components of this package in the light of ongoing concerns regarding availability of supply teachers up and down the country," added its executive director, Eileen Prior.
Tina Woolnaugh, a spokesperson for the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said parents would not be enthusiastic about the additional in- service days, adding: "If it's necessary, it's necessary".
Two additional in-service days for secondary schools. To ensure these are not taken over by authority-wide events, the agreement between the government and EIS refers specifically to "more time for teachers", meaning schools should be left to determine how to use the time.
pound;3.5 million additional financial support: distributed to secondaries on a pupil pro-rata basis, could be used to pay for additional supply cover.
Development of new course materials for Nationals 4 and 5. Publication by the SQA of the assessment arrangements for Nationals 4 and 5 on April 30 will de facto create a syllabus for the new courses. Whether schools use a 3+3 or 2+2+2 model, pupils in S3 should be following the experiences and outcomes up to and beyond CfE Level 4; the National 4 and 5 courses should articulate with these as part of the continuum from S1-3 broad general education to S4-6 senior phase.
SQA will expand its support programme to ensure every principal subject teacher can attend relevant CPD events.
Education Scotland will carry out an audit of the state of readiness of secondary schools. Where a school or department requires or requests additional support beyond what is currently planned, a tailored support package will be agreed. If its local authority agrees it is still not sufficiently on track in June 2012, it may consider switching to Intermediates for the current S2 cohort.
CfE - WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE
March 1994: Tory Scottish Secretary Ian Lang announces Higher Still reform for upper secondary, to be introduced in August 1997;
April 1994: EIS describes the timescale as "fantasy";
August 1995: Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth announces a year's delay to August 1998, but "no further postponement";
May 1997: New Labour education minister Brian Wilson announces postponement by another year to August 1999 after pound;20 million spent on developing the programme, but phasing is ruled out;
November 1997: EIS calls for "immediate and urgent review" of Higher Still assessment;
June 1998: EIS annual conference votes for a ballot on boycotting Higher Still, complaining about assessment and workload;
June 1998: Wilson offers two additional in-service days for Higher Still staff development;
September 1998: Education minister Helen Liddell announces extra pound;24 million for Higher Still to free teachers to get ready for the changeover, fund secondees to train teachers and provide more resources, but "no further delays";
November 1998: EIS calls off industrial action, supported by 86 per cent of those voting, as unions join multi-party talks on implementation;
December 1998: policy on not phasing in Higher Still reversed, with programme being staged over four years;
February 1999: some 80 per cent of Higher Still courses officially pronounced ready for August.
Original headline: Russell's pound;3.5m cash boost for National courses