Scottish education is again working its way through another set of challenges - in hushed voices, in darkened rooms, in consultative groups. All this work is being done in an effort to decide how best to implement A Curriculum for Excellence in a meaningful way.
These hours of fun could have been reduced, had everyone taken a closer look at one of the subjects we already have in the curriculum - social and vocational skills.
By introducing SVS for all in S3-4, the four capacities are covered and progression is there for S5-6 in the form of the new personal development units. This only leaves the needs of S1-2 to be addressed. So, a solution has been found, without much difficulty, for the majority of the cohort. Consider:
- At one and the same time, the course is rooted in practical work and the realities of economic survival yet ascends to touch our humanity at higher levels - self-assurance, ability to collaborate and caring for others.
- The course provides pupils with the opportunities to apply knowledge and skills in a variety of social and vocational circumstances, personal life, family, the wider community, work and leisure.
- SVS develops awareness of the needs of others in the community, and pupils are encouraged to appreciate the extent to which they themselves have a contribution to make in helping other people in the community.
- Personal qualities such as self-awareness, self-respect, confidence and initiative are at the heart of the programme.
- Fostering a positive attitude to co-operation and teamwork is a central aim.
Does this have a familiar ring to it, albeit in slightly different language? These statements were taken directly from the 1987 "revised arrangements" document for social and vocational skills. The underlying themes are almost identical to ACfE.
If you take the four capacities and align them with an SVS course, it would fit easily:
- Responsible citizens: the rationale fits well with the community placement, where respect, commitment, informed choices and decisions are among the priorities.
- Effective contributors: in this section, enterpriseprovide a service fits with enterprising attitudes, self-reliance, partnerships, teams, initiative and varied communication.
- Successful learners: here, the vehicle could be the leisure or the home activity which features numeracy, communication skills, technology for learning, thinking creatively and independently or as part of a group, reasoned evaluations and different types of learning in new situations.
- Confident individuals: the community event would fit here, where self-respect, relating to others, self-awareness, independence, risk assessment and achieving success are necessary elements.
The inherent skills of an SVS course provide the opportunity for the breadth and depth required of ACfE. They also sit well with Assessment is for Learning, as each activity involves setting out aims, organisation and evaluation. It is inter-disciplinary from both a pupil and a staff point of view through the types of activities and the subject range of staff teaching it. Critical skills are at its heart.
So instead of reinventing the wheel, why do we not just think about making it a little bigger and add a few new spokes to ensure it works. It will keep Scottish education rolling, having caused the least stress at all levels.
The annual conference of social and vocational skills specialists is on November 7 and 8 at Tulliallan
Janice Oakes is secretary of the Scottish Association for Education in Personal, Social and Vocational Skills.