Since devolution, there has been a broad consensus over the direction of travel for Scottish education. While there are no hostilities looming on the immediate horizon, various warning shots have been sounded over the Scottish Government's curricular and assessment reforms.
The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association fired the first one: it warned that, unless a moratorium was declared and various demands met, it would withdraw co-operation. School Leaders Scotland is adopting a more diplomatic approach (p1) but its concerns should be taken very seriously, however politely couched. Without the support of headteachers, it will be difficult to implement what is, as SLS says, a "generational opportunity" to realign the curriculum and assessment systems with the needs of pupils. While secondary heads support the philosophy of the reforms, the more they delve into the details, the more problems they unearth.
There is scarcely an aspect of the replacement of Standard grade and Intermediate exams with which SLS does not find fault: the end of early presentation, the reduction in the number of examinable subjects to five in S4, the grading of unit assessments, the introduction of additional exam diets - all are dismissed.
So, how would SLS reform the system? That is not clear, but its starting point might have been different. That would include the introduction of literacy and numeracy national tests at the end of primary, the argument being that S3 is too long a time to wait to monitor how well pupils are doing in these key skills. With significant numbers of pupils still leaving school functionally illiterate andor innumerate, there is an understandable pressure to act. Yet it seems ironic that, just as English schools are being allowed to drop their Sats tests for 14-year-olds, Scottish heads are contemplating additional testing.