Go-it-alone blueprint

NORTH Lanarkshire Council has moved a step closer to introducing its own alternative curriculum by agreeing to produce new guidance for secondary schools. The blueprint will be based on the results of a consultation exercise which, according to Dan Sweeney, head of educational quality and support services, indicated "broad support" for the changes.

The responses showed backing for fewer S1S2 courses, improved teacher and class continuity in the first two years, and effective "cluster group planning" to bolster the transfer of pupils from primary to secondary. In S3 and S4 there was wide support for increased flexibility in the way subjects are allocated to the eight "modes" of learning and for the inclusion of core skills. There was also "significant" support for the second and third years to operate within seven modes, not eight.

Mr Sweeney said relaxing the mode restrictions would not only give pupils more choice but also allow more time to be spent on new national priorities such as education for work and citizenship education. It would also enable some Higher Still courses to be used in S3 and 4.

While North Lanarkshire schools appear to accept that there is lack of progress in the first two secondary years, there were several qualifications. One school suggested youngsters regressed in S1 when they moved from being the oldest pupils in primary to the "babies" of secondary. Another felt lack of progress was confined to English and maths. There was one plea for more differentiated courses in early secondary. And lack of time for pupils of all abilities to reinforce and consolidate their learning (see opposite page) was viewed as another factor explaining sluggish performance.

There was, however, little support for one possible solution - a one-year common course followed by an early start to Standard grade for all in S2.

A more differentiated learning menu, the report suggested, would involve full speed ahead with the 5-14 level F, which is intended to stretch the ablest pupils, and "careful deployment" of some aspects of Standard grade courses in S2.

The new guidance will be prepared by a working group for final approval by the education committee before next January.

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