Michael Forsyth, noted for the speed of his reforms when he was Scottish Office education minister, has postponed a second educational reform since his appointment last month as Secretary of State for Scotland.
Higher Still, which will link post-16 academic and vocational courses under a single curriculum and assessment system, is being delayed by a year to give colleges and schools extra time to implement it.
The first Higher Still courses will now begin in 1998/99, with the first two-year Advanced Higher courses for the most able pupils being completed the following year.
Last month, the Scottish Office Education Department announced a year's delay in its controversial mentor scheme for student teachers, following lack of support from schools for an increased role in training and assessment.
Mr Forsyth said he was aware of widespread concerns that the ultimate quality of implementing Higher Still might be prejudiced by the tightness of the timetable. He had been advised that there would be merit in allowing more time for the development phase, and this extra time would be used for more extended consultation on key issues, and more sustained preparation and staff development in schools and colleges.
But the SOED's commitment to Higher Still has been underlined by the long awaited announcement of a new body which will take over the existing work of the Scottish Vocational Education Council and the Scottish Examination Board.
Raymond Robertson, Scottish Office education minister, said he intended to bring forward the necessary legislation when an opportunity arose.
"Scotvec and SEB separately have gained high reputations for rigour and relevance in their qualifications," he said.
"The new body will further enhance the standing of Scottish qualifications within Scotland and beyond, and help unify the academic and vocational traditions into a strong single route to achievement."
* Preliminary figures from the SEB show that while there has been a slight drop in the numbers taking Highers this year, more than 17,700 candidates, an increase of 3.5 per cent, gained the higher education entrance requirement of at least three Highers.