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Call for patience on exam reform

Challenges and frustrations in developing the Scottish Executive's curriculum reforms were revealed last weekend by Maggi Allan, chair of the programme board for the initiative.

Mrs Allan told local authority quality improvement officers that, as a politician wanting speedy results, Peter Peacock, Education Minister, might ask: "It's been a year now, what's happening?" But improvements would take time.

Change could not be cut and dried overnight, especially since teachers were being involved at every point, she said. Contrasting the programme with the introduction of the 5-14 guidelines, in which she was centrally involved, she commented: "This means engagement, not dissemination."

One headache was in fulfilling the principle of offering "a better balance between recognising attainment and achievement". How in pupils' personal plans could their achievements "in walking the West Highland Way or working in an old folks' home" be given recognition to match the currency given to examinations?

Mrs Allan told the seminar in Glasgow, organised by the Association of Educational Development and Improvement Professionals in Scotland (AEDIPS), that quality improvement officers should be involved in managing the transition to the reforms outlined in A Curriculum for Excellence (ACfE).

"Schools won't stop 5-14 one day and start ACfE the next day," Mrs Allan pointed out. Q10s should also challenge headteachers to produce evidence to back changes such as scrapping Standard grade in favour of Intermediate 2.

Isobel McGregor, HMIE, told the seminar that quality improvement officers should stimulate discussion in schools on the new curriculum and audit its introduction. They should not be "running mini-inspections in schools before the inspectors come in" and there should be greater stress on "support" as well as "challenge".

But in discussion groups, many improvement officers pointed out that authorities expected them to prepare schools for an inspection as if it were the inspection.

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