The Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum issued its long awaited revised guidelines for secondary schools this week, intended to update the famed "yellow peril" (named for its cover, unlike the latest edition which is mostly white).
The plans, which do not propose a major upheaval in school timetables or curricular structures, have been with the Scottish Office since last year, delayed by the general election and the need to take account of changes such as Higher Still.
George MacBride, a member of the task group that drew up the guidelines, believes the document is "a realistic one which allows schools to be as radical or as conservative as they wish to be in curricular terms".
The tables of detailed time allocations for subjects and modes are pointedly consigned to the back of the document.
"The major difference between this edition of the guidelines and the previous ones is philosophical," Mr MacBride comments. With sections such as "essential characteristics of the school experience", "the school as a learning community" and "principles for the management and evaluation of the curriculum", the council aims to set out the context in which teaching should take place.
Mr MacBride, education convener of the Educational Institute of Scotland and principal teacher of learning support at Govan High, said: "I hope that those reading the document would turn to the arguments not to the tables. We want to encourage schools to move from a preoccupation with timetabling structures to a rationale for what they are offering youngsters and what education should be all about."
Mike Baughan, the council's chief executive, said: "If they look on it simply as an exercise to work out how it will affect timetabling for subject choices next year, the philosophi cal messages underpinning it will have been lost."
Mr Baughan, himself a former secondary head, says schools will not face a prescriptive curriculum. "We acknowledge that schools are different. While there is, of course, a national framework, the document makes it explicit in a way which its predecessors did not that it is possible for, say, one subject to satisfy the requirements of two modes although this will have to be carefully audited. "
The curriculum council none the less continues to adhere to the principles of the "Munn curriculum" organised in eight "modes" of related subject areas from third to sixth year (five modes in the first and second years).
Any changes are mainly cosmetic suggesting, for example, that environmental studies in the first two years should be retitled "science, technology and society" since that is how it largely operates in practice.
All schools, education authorities, parent groups and unions will be sent copies of the draft guidelines, with a deadline of October 30 for comments. A final version will then be sent to the Secretary of State for his approval in January. They are planned to be introduced from August 1999.