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The clock never stops

Learning out of school is having a makeover, Elizabeth Buie reports

The idea that school activities should be divided into "curricular" and "extra-curricular" is outdated, one of Scotland's most senior civil servants said this week.

Philip Rycroft, head of the Scottish Executive's schools group, told a conference on out-of-school-hours learning (OSHL) in Glasgow that the curriculum review was based on the philosophy that everything that happens in and around a school was part of a child's education.

Out-of-school-hours learning was clearly part of how schools developed the four capacities for pupils set out in A Curriculum for Excellence, that they should be successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors, Mr Rycroft said. He pledged that the new curriculum would be built on the quality of teachers' engagement across Scotland.

David Cameron, director of children's services at Stirling Council, warned, however, that the radical vision of A Curriculum for Excellence might be lost by engaging too closely with teachers, resulting in mere tinkering with the current curriculum.

The pressure for the revised curriculum had come from the national debate on education, Mr Cameron said. "But, if we are not careful, we will miss a lot of opportunities by taking the ACfE debate back to the teaching profession and out of the context of the national debate. We are likely to get the possibility of things being tinkered with rather than the possibility of radical change."

He agreed, however, that A Curriculum for Excellence provided at least a context for out-of-school-hours learning, and gave clarity to its benefits.

"In the past, for all the rhetoric about the value of out-of-school-hours learning, when budget cuts came along it was the revision classes for Standard grade and Higher that survived, but activities like computer clubs for girls lost funding."

Mr Cameron accused councils of diverting money for out-of-school-hours learning from primary, where very exciting things were done, into secondary schools where it was used for revision and attainment purposes.

Stirling's director wondered, however, how out-of-hours activities could be voluntary and targeted at the same time, as suggested in the Executive's new guidance. "Not all the people you want to target will volunteer," Mr Cameron said.

The curriculum initiatives afforded "an unparalleled opportunity to unleash the creativity not just of our teachers but of early childhood educators, classroom assistants, parent volunteers and partners", he said. Scottish schools could become freer, more creative and more responsive to the needs of children.

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