Extra support for secondary teachers
Teachers are to be given more time and support to help deliver the new qualifications in secondary schools.
The Scottish government has announced details of a £5m package for councils.
Unions have previously warned of excessive bureaucracy, and said some teachers were under pressure.
Scotland's largest teachers' union, the EIS, welcomed the announcement and said the government was listening to its concerns.
Fourth year students are currently studying for the new National 4 and 5 qualifications which have replaced Standard Grades.
The new courses last one year rather than two and have some substantial differences.'Good progress'
The National 4s - the equivalent to a General in a Standard Grade - have no final exams and the emphasis is on assessment during the course.
Some teachers have complained about over-assessment.
Changes to Highers are due to take effect in the next school year.
The new package from the government includes:
- £4.75m to local authorities to fund more time for teachers and schools to play their part in delivering the new national qualifications, including the new Highers
- An additional in-service day in session 2014/15 to help the continuing implementation of national qualifications, including the new Highers
- £250,000 for local authorities to deliver school level events to improve parents' understanding of the new qualifications
- A modified approach to verification, based on evaluation of verification to date
Learning Minister Dr Alasdair Allan said: "Teachers and pupils across Scotland are making good progress as they work towards the new National Qualifications and prepare for Highers.
"I want to make sure that we do everything we can to support this work and that is why I am putting in place an additional package to help school and authority level preparations.
"This £5m support will ensure that teachers get the time and space they need to come together to work through assessment procedures, as well as other aspects of the new qualifications."
It is encouraging that the Scottish government and the national education bodies are listening to teachers' concerns”
Dr Allan said teachers would be able to make use of new "route-maps" through assessment, developed by Education Scotland.
More detailed information on these will be available for headteachers at the first of the four national leadership events, which start on Monday.
He added: "I also welcome the fact that SQA are today setting out how they will be modifying their approach to verification following their evaluation of verification to date, and in response to teacher feedback.
"Parents are a key part of their child's learning and it is crucial that they understand the improvements being made to Scottish education and qualifications.
"We've already worked with the National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS) to produce a range of materials. I want to support their use with parents, and that is why I am also making funding available for school-level events to inform parents about the new qualifications."
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said the new support package was a "positive development" that would be "very welcome" in secondary schools.'Key ingredients'
He added: "Teachers are continuing to work extremely hard to assimilate new assessment requirements and to ensure that pupils are fully prepared for the first set of National exams in May.
"It is encouraging that the Scottish government and the national education bodies are listening to teachers' concerns that the EIS raised relating to both workload and bureaucracy, and are taking steps to lighten the load and increase support for teachers and pupils.
"In particular, the new route maps to assessment and the modifications to the verification procedures for internal assessment are positive steps towards lightening the burden on both teachers and pupils, freeing up more time to focus on core learning and teaching and vital exam preparation."
Ken Cunningham, general Secretary of School Leaders Scotland, also welcomed the announcement.
He said: "The key ingredients of additional time and supportive resources are welcome, as is the continued recognition of the SQA that some administrative assessment burdens can be eased while maintaining standards and the integrity of the qualifications.
"We continue to have absolute confidence in all our staff helping our young people achieve the best they can."
Some parents have also expressed worries about the changes themselves - for instance why an academic child might be studying for six of the new National 5s whereas seven or eight Standard Grades or O Grades was more typical.
Others are anxious children in fourth year at the moment are, in effect, guinea pigs.
Iain Ellis, chairman of National Parent Forum of Scotland, also said: "We recognise that there is nothing more important than teachers who are prepared and able to help our children succeed and although we are reluctant to see our children's education further disrupted by more additional in-service days, we accept that it may be necessary for one last time next year to ensure that teachers have more time to prepare to deliver the new Higher.
"We would urge schools to engage with their own Parent Council/Forums on their plans for use of this time and funding so that parents can understand how it will benefit their children."