‘Reset curriculum to focus on traditional subjects’

The Scottish Conservatives are calling for ‘good-quality choices’ for pupils in science, the social sciences and the arts

Emma Seith

‘Reset curriculum to focus on traditional subjects’

The Scottish Conservatives have called for a “reset” of Scotland's school curriculum in a bid to ensure an increased focus on core and traditional subjects.

This comes after a full review into the senior phase of secondary school in the country was ordered by education secretary John Swinney last year.

The review was announced following a report by MSPs that found there had been a narrowing in the subject choices on offer for some pupils, particularly in S4.

Background: Subject uptake reduces across ‘entire senior phase’

Related: Why the subject choices debate is more nuanced than it seems

News: John Swinney accused of behaving like an ‘old hippie’

Mr Swinney said at the time that the review would provide a better understanding of how the curriculum was being implemented in schools and help to identify any areas for improvement.

The Scottish Conservatives now want a full review of education from nursery to S3 and how it fits with the senior phase.

They say knowledge-based learning should be seen as equally important as a skills-based approach and that there should be “good-quality choices” guaranteed for pupils in science, the social sciences and the arts.

Last year, Mr Swinney was accused by Labour education spokesman Iain Gray of acting like an “old hippie” over his attitude to subject choice in secondary schools, after he repeatedly told the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee that he did not believe in dictating what pupils should study in the senior phase of secondary beyond the “three pre-eminent aspects of the curriculum”: literacy, numeracy, and health and wellbeing.

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said there must be a strong attachment to core subjects if education in Scotland was to improve.

"There is a significant mismatch between the SNP's current rhetoric about education standards and what is actually happening in our schools," Ms Smith said.

"John Swinney knows fine well, and so do his officials and education experts across the country, that all is not well in the education system.

"In our view, and in the view of most parents and employers, there has to be a strong attachment to core subjects in our schools if things are to improve.

"That means not just maths and English but the arts, the sciences and social sciences, too."

Ms Smith added: "This has become an issue about knowledge content and the ability of all pupils to have meaningful choices in key faculty areas, and a breadth across those disciplines which was always the main strength of Scottish education.

"It's not so much a case of returning to an older curriculum as resetting this one.

"The SNP must realise that there is a very long way to go before Scotland can once again lead the world in education."

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "Curriculum for Excellence helps equip pupils with the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for life in the 21st century.

"Pupils learn a wide range of subjects up to S3 and courses, qualifications and awards from S4 to S6 are tailored to meet young people's needs. Last year a record proportion went on to positive destinations.

"We acted in 2016 to clarify and simplify the curriculum framework and remove unnecessary bureaucracy, ensuring teachers can focus on providing valuable learning experiences.

"The forthcoming review of the senior phase will include an analysis of transitions from the broad general education into the senior phase and beyond and follows a broad general education review in 2015."

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for TES Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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