Editor's comment

This is becoming a habit. Yet again, a government has been forced to delay a major school reform. So far, A Curriculum for Excellence and the "next generation" of qualifications have not been troubled by the tortuous experiences which accompanied the introduction of the 5-14 changes, Standard grade and Higher Still. In fact, the only reform of the past 20 years which had a relatively smooth passage was the 16-18 action plan - and it was, arguably, more revolutionary than all the others, as it replaced sub-degree courses in further education with modular programmes. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned there.

Tensions will always exist in education reform between those who wish to see change quickly and those for whom consultation is not just a process but a mantra. The action plan was an example of speed; the 11 years to bring Standard grade from committee room to classroom was not. Of course, politicians are expected to learn from mistakes, and there is no doubt that Higher Still, for example, suffered from being hatched in cloistered surroundings - influenced by teacher representatives, certainly, but not always by serving teachers.

It was therefore decided that ACfE would evolve gradually and involve teachers from the bottom up rather than top down - the bidet rather than cascade approach. This gave way to complaints that it was all coming apart, with no national direction or leadership. Those promoting change seldom win - damned if they do, damned if they don't.

The main challenge for the reformed curriculum remains secondary schools, rather than primaries - hence the pressure for delay by School Leaders Scotland, representing secondary heads, and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (as well as the Educational Institute of Scotland). That is where renewed effort is required: the additional year must not be wasted.

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