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Curriculum planners urged to focus on 'social competence'

THE promotion of "social competence" is the latest message from the Scottish Office for curriculum planners in schools.

New guidance from the Education Minister is intended to get schools asking themselves whether they are actively improving pupils' life chances through personal and social education.

Helen Liddell said: "Schools must provide children with the basic skills in maths and English but there is no getting away from the fact that in the modern world our young people require additional skills if they are to get the most from their own opportunities and what they can offer society."

The guidance, issued as part of the How Good Is Our School? self-evaluation series, aims to "help schools to reach higher standards in developing their pupils' social skills, especially those whose educational progress is being held back by social, emotional or behavioural difficulties", Mrs Liddell said.

The Heart of the Matter discussion document on personal and social education (PSE) issued by the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum in 1995 defined the necessary qualities as personal and interpersonal skills, effective communication, the ability to engage with problems and learning skills.

Mrs Liddell restates this as: "Social competence is an important element of a child's development, and skills such as the ability to manage relationships and work with others are vital keys to success in adult life."

The latest guidance also aims to reduce "the feelings of isolation and resentment experienced by some children", helping to raise attainment. It is also being seen as part of the drive to improve pupils' "emotional literacy".

Margaret McGhie, assistant director of the curriculum council who sat on the steering group which produced the guidance, said: "A great deal of what it suggests is already happening and is connected to other things that are happening. It is not just something out there in the wilderness."

The Scottish Office announced plans to stage a national seminar to establish effective approaches in developing social competence.

A website is available through the Scottish Virtual Teachers' Centre on www.dundee.ac.ukpsychologyprosoc.htm. It includes 100 case studies of what some schools are already doing.

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