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Too many stay on into the metric age

David Henderson recalls the issues that ministers tried to sweep under the carpet 30 years ago

THE proposed raising of the school-leaving age to 16 in 1970-71, subsequently delayed for two years, continued to dominate the thoughts of ministers, local authorities and unions.

An extensive building programme was under way involving extensions to 30 secondaries, the first of which was opened at Galashiels Academy by Willie Ross, the Scottish Secretary, in October 1969.

More hostels were planned throughout the Highlands and Islands as the number of pupils staying on rose.

A briefing paper from the Educational Institute of Scotland highlighted many concerns, not least that "in a period of rising costs, educational economies can have drastic effects".

With the introduction of decimal currency and metric measures, the union argued for substantially more materials.

"Projectors and television sets, materal for modern methods of teaching languages and mathematics, and textbooks which contain facts and figures relating to the present day are absolutely essential," it urged.

Changes to the curriculum for 12 to 16-year-olds were also on the way.

"The focus will be on the average child and the emphasis on courses with a vocational interest, more social education, and more education for leisure," the EIS noted.

The union pressed for similar changes to the SCE exams to accommodate the large number of pupils for whom O grade was never intended. But the Scottish Education Department ruled out the EIS's own suggestion of a new exam.

Meanwhile, a review of the functions and composition of the General Teaching Council was attracting the union's attention. Most of the criticism of the GTC centred on registration arrangements and a number of teachers who had deliberately not registered had been dismissed.

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