Editorial - Take care not to snag the fabric of CfE

Gillian Macdonald

Is the whole fabric of Curriculum for Excellence falling apart? You would think so, to read some of the comments in this week's magazine. References range from "the emperor's finely-knitted curriculum beginning to unravel" to teachers' efforts to make it work being like "knitting fog" to "a patchwork quilt" that doesn't quite fit together.

In the Opinion pages, we have defenders of the faith: a policy consultant who regrets that the education system is so resistant to change, an acting headteacher who insists that the new curriculum has the potential to change schools for the better, and a physics officer who comes away with a "song in his heart" from a classroom where he saw "Curriculum for Excellence as it should be" (pages 33-35).

On the Letters page, we have the sceptics: a long-serving head who feels duty-bound to state that Curriculum for Excellence is "still an unholy mess", a geography teacher who believes most teachers would prefer an updated version of the existing curriculum, and those who say "we have been here before and learned nothing from the experience" (page 32).

And on the News Focus pages, we have the pragmatists: four headteachers in separate case studies who are making it work for their pupils (as they are supposed to do) in four totally different ways. Far from choosing only five subjects to specialise in, as was originally mooted, pupils will be doing anything up to 11 National 4s and eight Highers - not quite the vision of rich and deep learning that was foreseen (pages 12-15).

The whole debate is playing itself out here, with more and more voices of dissent emerging as the weeks go by. It's hard to believe it was less than two months ago (TESS, 10 February) that Education Scotland told us "every school on 2+2+2 is going to be encouraged to change" and any failing to adopt a 3+3 curriculum model would be "supported out of that position". Yet, now, the most faithful follower, at Hillhead High in Glasgow, where the principles have been fully embraced, is beginning to feel "a bit isolated and worried" and is prepared to revert to what he has been doing for 25 years if he feels his pupils are disadvantaged.

So what has changed? Probably not very much, but the more people speak up, the more others feel emboldened; and the more voices there are, the more evidence there is of diversity in the system.

Add to that the detail schools can now give us about their plans for pupils moving from the broad general education of lower secondary through to the senior phase, and you get some idea of the variety that will emerge in two weeks' time from the Scottish government's audit of the country's state of readiness. It may be in for a shock.

Gillian Macdonald, Editor of the year (business and professional), gillian.macdonald@tess.co.uk.

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Gillian Macdonald

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