'Dear Agony Aunt... the love for CfE is fading'

David Cameron imagines what Scotland’s CfE curriculum would say to agony aunt Claire Rayner - and her response

The CfE love story: What would Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence write to an agony aunt?

Dear Claire,

We started out in 2002. We had asked everyone we knew if we should get together and had taken lots of advice. We really thought that we knew how to build the relationship, but we wanted to be really clear so we set it all out in an agreement. We did that in 2004 and from then on we were really into it. We tried stuff out. We played around with ideas; we tried things out. It all felt so promising. We really got together in 2010 and we’ve been trying to make it work ever since.

There’s no doubt that it has been hard.


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It seemed to take an awful lot of work just to keep it going. There were so many demands. We felt that we just didn’t know enough to make the relationship work, so we came up with a whole set of "experiences" that we felt we should have and "outcomes" that we thought we should achieve. Maybe there were too many of them. Indeed, there were so many that we had to buy a really big green folder just to keep them all together. Indeed, there were so many of them that it was really hard to remember them all. To be honest, I am not sure that we ever read through them anyway.

Is Curriculum for Excellence losing its spark?

We had a whole lot of manuals to help us build a relationship. Maybe there were too many of them, too. Certainly some of them got a bit forgotten, but we had invested so much in writing all of this stuff that we didn’t feel we could cut back on it. We actually began to think that it wasn’t that we had too much of all this stuff. Maybe we didn’t have enough, so we wrote more. We set out benchmarks for the relationship. Maybe we didn’t need 4,000, but that’s what we finished up with. Even we didn’t know whether they replaced our experiences and outcomes or added to them or what. It was a confusing time.

We tried counselling and we went for the absolute best. We brought them in from all over the world. They tried really hard. They observed us and gave us reports, so, then, we had lots of advice to add to the experiences, outcomes and benchmarks, but it still didn’t feel right.

Other people were making demands of us. They tested us and examined us and we started to feel that all these demands and assessments were shaping what we were doing more than all the manuals, Es and Os [experiences and outcomes] and benchmarks. We were tired. Nothing seemed to work as well as it used to, although we did have some great shining moments. The relationship was breaking down. We are falling out of love with each other.

Do you think it will be enough if we just refresh the narrative? Maybe just go back and look at why we got together in the first place, talk about why we fell in love, revisit our original plans and dreams and just remind ourselves what all this was really supposed to be like. Will this save us?

Yours,

CfE (Curriculum for Excellence)


Dear CfE,

No!

You have to start from where you are now and face up to what is really happening. Do you still love each other? It doesn’t sound to me as if you do.

You need to think about changing behaviours and deal with how things are now. You can’t rewrite history and ignore experiences. Try scaling back on all that documentation. Make sure that the people making demands of you focus on what really matters and maybe just be a bit clearer with each other about what you need to know and do, but keep it simple and straightforward.

Perhaps you don’t need another big conversation, maybe you just need to start taking a few simple actions.

Just a thought!

Yours,

Claire


David Cameron is an education consultant based in Scotland and a former local authority director of children’s services. He tweets @realdcameron

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