In Scotland, the ‘national educational myth’ (here’s tae us, wha’s like us?) tends to focus on our long history and breadth of education for all, crowned by the status and history of the Higher Grade qualification, even though all of these are, to some extent, perceptions as much as facts.

In the current climate, we tend to forget that equality and excellence were the watchwords for Scottish education before equity – rightly – took centre stage.

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We also tend to forget that meeting the needs of all children was always a problem at both ends of the ability spectrum and that the most able were often not fully stretched by Scottish educational approaches.

Advanced Higher and its predecessor were developed to improve the learning pathway for the most able, but Advanced Higher is more often glimpsed in the reflected glory of Higher than highlighted as an important qualification whose role is to challenge and stretch the most able.

Given that the potential of this group of young people is of significant importance to the economic, academic and social wellbeing of Scottish society, it appears strange that the Russell Group of English universities are stronger advocates for Advanced Higher than their Scottish counterparts.

For the former, the Advanced Higher is seen favourably as a desirable entry qualification in an English context where the A Level has not had the most positive of profiles in recent years.

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Scottish schools are quite rightly being required to address the needs of the deprived and least able, but it would be unusual to hear a Scottish politician make an impassioned plea for the curricular journey and achievements of the most able to be considered as carefully as those of the least able.

Yet this is also an area where equity of the currently fashionable variety has a key role.

Pupils attending schools in the most disadvantaged areas (SIMD 1-3) fare worst when it comes to the number of Advanced Higher courses offered and in the results achieved.

Inevitably, this impacts both on widening university access and on providing fairness for all pupils who aspire to achieve Advanced Higher and so increase their chances of reaching university.

This will be particularly noticeable in future given the current suggestion that a greater number of pupils who achieve Advanced Highers should be fast-tracked into the second year of a university degree.

The current administration once favoured the Scottish Baccalaureate which could provide both an incentive and a vehicle for young people to study a range of Advanced Highers.

Alas, the initiative was largely stillborn due to the limited specifications of the small number of Baccalaureate programmes available.

For the sake of all able Scottish children, regardless of background, Advanced Higher requires to be a readily available curricular element.

For the sake of Scotland, this important qualification cannot be allowed to slip away.

Dr Jim Scott is a former headteacher and lecturer at Dundee University