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To delay or not delay - that is the question

In the next few weeks, Michael Russell, the Education Secretary (pictured), has to make a crucial decision: whether or not to delay Curriculum for Excellence for another year.

It is one he cannot afford to get wrong: at stake is the educational future of thousands.

The Scottish Conservatives would prefer that there be no delay, but we are also mindful of the strong message from teachers and parents that schools do not feel ready just yet. While, for a small minority, this might just be a negative reaction to change, I believe it is a genuine request from the majority for more time to prepare and to understand exactly how CfE will improve educational opportunities.

But that process will never be complete until there is more clarity about the reformed exams which will accompany CfE.

In this respect, the Scottish Government must urgently address three major concerns: how to improve the teaching and testing of basic literacy and numeracy skills in primary schools; how to raise the importance of testing subject knowledge, rather than just "skills-based learning"; and how to ensure that Higher and Advanced Higher courses are made more available to those pupils who wish to access them.

The exams system lacks sufficient rigour in testing knowledge and understanding and the more sophisticated analytical skills which employers are seeking as much as they are improved literacy and numeracy.

CfE has so much to offer, but the potential for transforming Scottish education will be seriously constrained unless exam reform can match the ambitious aims of CfE.

If a short delay in implementation can achieve this, then so be it. The educational futures of our young people are far too important to be the subject of yet more confusion and indecision.

Liz Smith MSP, Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Skills, Scottish Parliament.

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