Wanted: real guidance on Higher Still;Letter

8th May 1998 at 01:00
The other day I received a Higher Still subject guide supplement. With less than 13 months to go to H-day, I ripped off its cellophane wrapping with a measure of relief that I was now beginning to get the help I require. What I found inside certainly does offer considerable scope for debate.

I've only been teaching English for 16 years, a principal teacher for a mere six, so I'd never realised that "small group, individualised, supported self-study and whole-class teaching are all methods employed in these courses". Thanks for enlightening me.

It was also a revelation that I might consider "which texts to use for textual analysis" or I should remember that "materials from the National Assessment Bank" need to be obtained and examined''. Ground-breaking stuff.

The supplement offers an illustration of how Higher Still might be operated in a hypothetical department (the sort of thing we mulled over at national meetings last November), draws comparisons between the new examination and existing post-16 courses (which I've been discussing at principal teachers' meetings since 1995), and arrived in my pigeon-hole six weeks after our local adviser told us that the document on which it is based was being recalled for substantial revision.

I'm angry. Bloody angry. More than a year ago I suggested that if the authorities were interested in selling Higher Still to teachers, instead of merely imposing it, they must offer real support to the classroom teacher. The authorities needed to produce a fully fleshed out package at all levels covering all units. This package would supply the materials needed to teach the course in the first year and would provide an exemplar for subsequent adaptation. Very few English departments in Scotland feel equipped in terms of time, resources and energy to take on the burden of development that we experienced during the implementation of Standard grade, Revised Higher, Scotvec modules and 5-14.

Lots of material was being produced, we were told. I haven't seen any of it, but I have put my name down twice to pilot new materials, partly because I am unfailingly upbeat about teaching (ask my department) and partly because I didn't know of any other way to find out what I'm be expected to teach. I have received nothing from the Higher Still Development Unit. It has ignored my offers of assistance and palmed off my plea for materials with apparently empty promises. No wonder so many teachers in Scottish education have had it up to here.

Raymond Soltysek

Caplethill Road, Potterhill, Paisley

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