'Broad general education' still too hazy, say heads

Lack of clarity on CfE is `dangerous', warns secondaries chief

Elizabeth Buie

New guidance published this week by Education Scotland on "broad general education" is still open to interpretation, according to the leader of secondary heads.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said the briefing guide still offered "a serious potential" for inspectors to take a limited view of how Curriculum for Excellence ought to be delivered. That, he said, was "dangerous".

"This document gives scope for them to be quite rigid on it - but equally it gives the right to a headteacher to explain that what they are doing meets it," he said.

In one section, which addresses the question of how specialisation might appear at the fourth curriculum level, the guidance states: "Care needs to be taken in the design of the S1-S3 curriculum to avoid closing off options for the choice of qualifications and subsequent pathways available to young people as they enter the senior phase in S4. This includes curriculum models which require all young people in a cohort to narrow down to a set of specific subject choices at the end of S2 (or even earlier)."

Mr Cunningham said this guidance does not preclude secondaries from allowing pupils to make choices at the end of S2, "as long as they don't shut off perfectly sensible routes for young people".

But he remains concerned that HMIs might take "a very narrow view of what are appropriate pathways".

Frank Lennon, head of Dunblane High, a strong advocate for leaving option choices till the end of S3, said he felt the document offered useful clarification on the difference between "personalisation and choice" and "specialisation".

"The advice is that opportunities for `personalisation and choice' may be provided through `learning, teaching and assessment approaches', `topics or contexts', `themes' and `activities' . but not through subject choice for whole cohorts before S3," he said.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "Education Scotland clearly doesn't want to be seen to be dictating what happens."

But the key phrase in the whole thing was: "Schools are expected to ensure that all children have opportunities to experience all the `Es and Os' across all curriculum areas, up to and including the third curriculum level."


Deep audit response

All the principal teachers of maths in Renfrewshire have responded to Education Scotland's "deep audit" of schools' readiness for the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence by saying they want to run Intermediate 1 instead of National 4 in their subject, in 2013-14.

Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said the maths teachers had various concerns about the National 4 qualification: they were unhappy about the lack of external exam in National 4; not convinced of its robustness as they have not seen the final assessment details (due at the end of April); and not sure if they could deliver 160 hours in S4.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association has complained that around 50 per cent of its district secretaries and school representatives claim their education authorities have not consulted at school level as part of the audit. General secretary Ann Ballinger picked out Fife and Renfrewshire for their exemplary practice in consulting staff, but others had missed an opportunity.

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Elizabeth Buie

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