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Curriculum appeal to heads

The curriculum reforms are not about "tinkering around the edges", the national co-ordinator with responsibility for overseeing the Scottish Executive's plans says.

May Sweeney, a secondary headteacher, told a conference of heads last week that the curriculum review groups which have been set up to "declutter the curriculum" have been asked to take "a more holistic approach".

"As the intention is to start from where most people are, the groups have been set up around broad curricular areas," Mrs Sweeney said, "but, from the outset, interaction across the teams has been built into the process."

Mrs Sweeney repeated the pledge by Maggi Allan, who chairs the programme board in charge of the initiative, that schools would become engaged in the whole process in October. "This is involvement at an early stage, so there should not be an expectation of polished guidelines," she said.

"Teachers will be involved in shaping future guidance which will be slimmer and more succinct than present guidance, with a focus on the 'how'."

Mrs Sweeney underlined the importance of research in developing the new curriculum, including action-led research in schools. Studies on features of what makes for successful innovation will also guide the process.

Schools can become involved by joining a "register of interest".

She pointed out to her fellow heads that "changes in classroom practice are more likely to occur if supported by people of influence within the school, for example the headteacher and senior management team, and outwith the school, for example HMIE".

Mrs Sweeney said the way the Assessment is for Learning programme had developed, piloting different approaches and involving teachers, was the model for the curriculum reforms.

Calum MacSween, head of Charleston Academy in Inverness, reinforced this view, pointing out the importance of "cultivating the ground" by involving teachers and encouraging a climate of enquiry and evaluation. Charleston Academy has set up a learning and teaching research group, involving all staff and a researcher from Stirling University. Mr MacSween says the time is now ripe to develop thinking on the "how" questions as well as the "what".

Fred Wildridge, head of Grange Academy in Kilmarnock, called for as wide a choice as possible for pupils in S1. This session his school included sport, music, Spanish, Gaelic, dance, technology, art and enterprise.

Learning had become more enjoyable and indiscipline was much reduced.

David Williamson, head of Whitburn Academy in West Lothian, described its approach as a transition phase in S1 and S6 with the rest of the stages as a progressive whole. The school has appointed an assessment co-ordinator to monitor pupils' progress.

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