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DIY certificates to recognise achievement

North Lanarkshire is to launch its own home-made leaver certificates to recognise the wider achievements of its pupils.

Michael O'Neill, the council's director of education and one of the Executive's key 'informal' advisers on education, said that, while traditional subjects and examination results were important, so increasingly are the key 'life skills' such as problem-solving, IT skills, working in teams and enterprise.

Even universities and employers now accept this, he added. Significantly the CBI, the employers' organisation, has agreed to collaborate with the council in "badging" the certificates, the first of which will be issued as passports into primary and secondary. leavers from secondary will get diplomas.

Mr O'Neill, giving evidence this week to the parliamentary inquiry into flexibility into the school curriculum, said: "Good exam results can get you into university but the other skills are important to make you a success while you're there; similarly, qualifications might get you into a job but the other skills ensure you become good at it."

"We need to recognise a combination of achievements is necessary: the gateway that gets you in and the skills that ensure your success while you're in."

Alex Easton, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, welcomed North Lanarkshire's initiative, describing it as "a move in the right direction, which gets us away from the narrow focus on attainment rather than achievement in its widest sense and from the crudities of target-setting".

In their presentation to MSPs on the Parliament's education committee on behalf of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, Mr O'Neill appeared along with Margaret Doran, head of schools in Stirling Council.

He repeated one of the key messages from last week's evidence by Learning and Teaching Scotland: that subjects on their own are not enough. Following the strong defence of the subject-based curriculum at last week's annual conference of the Educational Institute of Scotland by the outgoing president Douglas Mackie, Mr O'Neill said subjects "are now part of the problem" preventing curricular innovation in schools.

They had been a great source of strength in the past, staffed by teachers with great expertise and enthusiasm in their subject, he said. But, he added, this was now also a source of weakness in that it made subject teachers reluctant to make links with other subjects and with the pupils next door.

But Mr O'Neill suggested that schools had come a long way in developing cross-disciplinary working, using the expertise of the existing staff, recognising (as a former history teacher) "that you're not teaching history, you're teaching the child."

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