New curriculum leaves many pupils 'bored'

Pupils doing more independent work but no significant boost to engagement

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Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is failing to engage large numbers of pupils, and by secondary school well over a third think “learning is boring”, new figures reveal.

The Scottish government report finds that many continue to be uninspired, despite the curriculum ushering in greater flexibility for pupils to explore what interests them.

The study notes that an increasing proportion of Scottish pupils are frequently finding things out by investigating and solving problems independently. However, in the past five years, there has been no significant change in the proportion who agree that “learning is boring”.

In 2015, this figure was 23 per cent for the final year of primary school. By the second year of secondary school, while there has been a small improvement in attitudes, 39 per cent of pupils still reported finding lessons tedious (in 2011, 44 per cent agreed that learning was boring).

Curriculum reality vs curriculum aims

The figures will come as a blow to the Scottish government, given that one of the central aims of the new curriculum was to increase pupil engagement by freeing teachers to adapt their methods to individual circumstances.

The data was collected as part of the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN), which will be scrapped next year.

Iain Gray, education spokesman for Scottish Labour, described the findings as “worrying” and said this was the price of government cuts to education.

However, Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said: “It’s useful to look at these kinds of surveys but the vast majority of secondary pupils are happy with their experience, which, given they are hormonal teenagers, is something we can be proud of.”

There were also some positive trends: pupils across primary and secondary reported exploring and investigating more in lessons, and engaging in more problem-solving. The vast majority of pupils also have a positive view of school.

A Scottish government spokesperson said that CfE provided “a flexible model for teachers to design learning, which meets the needs of individual pupils, adapting to their individual styles, backgrounds and preferences”.

This is an edited version of an article in the 4 November edition of TESS. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTESS magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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