Teachers have little faith in reform

13th December 1996 at 00:00
Many teachers simply do not believe they will be teaching Higher Still in 1998, Fred Forrester, depute general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, advised senior government officials.

Warning of a "terrible gap" between the work of the Higher Still development unit and the chalkface, Mr Forrester said: "They do not believe there's going to be a big bang or even a smaller bang."

He feared that Ron Tuck's "model of gradualism" - a concept that had only recently emerged - would continue to present difficulties for schools that were facing crises in other areas. "The background to this reform is uniquely unfavourable," Mr Forrester said.

Earlier, George MacBride, EIS education convener, warned there was little chance of successful implementation of Higher Still when local authorities were facing huge cuts that would reduce the number of teachers in secondary school. The loss of advisory services, and the trimming of staff development budgets, was a further setback.

"I do not think I or my colleagues will be approaching the implementation of Higher Still with much enthusiasm if each of us is holding in our hand our 90-day redundancy notice," he said. "We are well aware that Glasgow City Council is getting close to issuing notices to every one of its employees in schools."

Mr MacBride added that the predicted cuts of 7 per cent in non-departmental governmental bodies would mean the new qualifications authority got off to a very bad start.

"Frightening" underfunding of Scottish education would result in the benefits of Higher Still being lost to pupils, he said.

Mr MacBride, a learning support teacher at Govan High, also attacked the emphasis on older pupils at the expense of the 5-14 programme. Certification in S5 and S6 was seen as more important than the education of children from P1 to S2, evidenced by the resources channelled into Higher Still. The number of staff involved and documentation were far greater. In secondaries, teachers were now ignoring 5-14 and concentrating on Higher Still.

Mr MacBride suggested Higher Still was an elitist programme that transferred resources from the poorer members of society to the most favoured.

In a further broadside, he believed the S5S6 reforms had damaged pupil and teacher autonomy. Subjects were being taught even in S1 and through to standard grade because of the influence of the examination system.

"The issue has to be raised why we need quite so much certification and what are the benefits of this amount of certification to young people?" he asked.

More internal assessment could be one means to empower students and teachers but Standard grade experience suggested otherwise. "If you ask young people in fourth year if they're enjoying internal assessment, the answer is not exactly enthusiastic," he said. "For many teachers, internal assessment is a pressure that will only be made worse by the threat of litigation we have seen recently. "

It was significant the five-level structure of Higher Still and the assessment system were not open to consultation, he added.

Mr Forrester added concerns about the status of the Advanced Higher, which Mr Tuck admitted might be delayed. It could end up like the present sixth-year studies qualifications and not recognised by higher education institutions.

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