"We expect the new Highers will be the best option for our young people when they come on stream, but we recognise there may be some situations where the professional judgement of teachers may lead them to consider other options. Where it is a principal teacher's clear professional judgement that their young people's interests would be best served by studying for the existing Highers then it is right they should have the opportunity to work closely with their senior management, local authority and, crucially, the parent body, to make that decision."
Mike Russell: Cabinet Secretary for Education – 21 November 2013
Following representations from the EIS the Cabinet Secretary for Education recently made the above announcement with regard to the implementation of the new National 6 (Higher) in session 2014/15. The EIS welcomes Mr Russell’s statement as a helpful response to the issues of workload which we had raised with him and also as acknowledgement of the importance of giving teachers greater control over the pace of implementation.
Whilst we recognise that this statement does not represent an across-the-board delay to introducing the new Higher, it does facilitate decision making at a school and even departmental level on this matter: some schools and departments may wish to push ahead with implementation, for instance where students are engaged in a two year course across S4 and S5, but others may wish to seek a delay.
The EIS accepts the premise that the decision should be made on the basis of providing potential candidates with the best option for success in what remains a benchmark qualification.
Schools and departments are advised to review their current proposed arrangements with a view to making an informed decision on which option best meets local circumstances. Where a delay is being sought a submission should be made outlining the reasons why, in the professional view of staff, student interests are best served by utilising the current Higher for a further year. Where implementation is agreed, teachers must be confident that promised resources and support will be delivered.
Nationally, the EIS is engaged in further discussions with Scottish Government and Education Scotland about the provision of additional funding and resources (course materials) to support the implementation process.
Some Local Authorities, possibly some schools, will be keen to persuade teachers to support the current timetable. However, whilst this will necessitate a professional dialogue around options, the EIS is clear in our belief that it would be entirely inappropriate for any Directorate or school managers to undermine the nationally agreed position by instructing schools to present for the new Higher in 2014/15, irrespective of the professional view of staff.
Where this possibility exists, members are urged to document at all stages the progress of discussions and to report matters to both their local secretary, for consideration by the EIS local association, and to EIS Headquarters.
In the event of a dispute developing further advice will be issued to local associations.