Many children thrive on the system

Tes Editorial

Fraserburgh Academy rector John Rankin puts forward qualified arguments for retaining the status quo of a broad range of subjects in S1 and S2. He says: "The case for change is not a black and white issue. Children are much more resilient than we give them credit for. Many thrive on the system. They just blossom when exposed to such a range of experience and the day becomes an adventure.

"It tends to be the bright or upper middle youngster for whom the present system offers a challenge and opportunity to progress quite fast and see what their strengths are. I don't see them suffering at all.

"For the less able youngster there is a strong case for modifying the curriculum, giving them a smaller number of teachers. They can get lost in the system and it is very trying for them.

"I don't see the time spent going from one class to another as a problem. Youngsters get a chance to chat and move around for a few minutes. Would an adult be able to concentrate all day without a break?

"Some people say first and second year are a waste of time. Youngsters can stand still or move backwards if we're not careful. They come into secondary with a wide range of experience, so good information transfer from the primary is very important.

"The bright child should be in top gear, going at their own pace from the beginning, otherwise they can get into bad habits and sit back, which can lead to difficulties later on.

"There shouldn't be a stamp on a new pupil's forehead and I think we should be prepared to give the rascal a fresh start. But otherwise we ought to build on what has gone before in primary.

"If you take the view that the primary head is a professional, they have information which is helpful and valid. Saying 'We're not interested in what you are telling us' is an appalling way to treat colleagues and makes a nonsense of the 5-14 guidelines. I can't go with that. The transition to secondary should be as natural as possible, a stage on a continuum.

"I've had some experience on a small scale of linking allied subjects together and it was very successful. The allied subjects allowed teachers to reinforce learning and the children made great progress in reading. But, perhaps because it was a small group, it was very demanding of staff and we had to put in extra resources.

"I raise the question whether we should have all the subjects in first year. Can teachers really get to know pupils in two periods a week? But if they don't have a subject in second year, they are unlikely to choose it in third year - 12 months is a long time at this age. These are the areas we ought to explore. I hope very much that the views of young people themselves will be sought. "

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