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Take a break, MSPs advise

MSPs want teachers to supplement their leadership skills "in environments outside education" by having the chance to go on career breaks, secondments and exchanges.

The parliamentary education committee's final report on its "snapshot overview" of pupil motivation, published on Wednesday, notes that "teachers may have fewer opportunities than other groups of professionals to gain experience in other fields". It suggests this could be done through small-scale pilot projects.

The report links pupil motivation to a properly resourced and motivated teaching workforce. As with pupils, there is said to be a wide range of factors - including effective leadership.

But it adds that leadership must not be the sole responsibility of school management and that leadership training needs to be embedded within both teacher training and continuing professional development.

The report also recommends that the Scottish Executive should give pupils the chance to provide formal feedback on their experience of teaching styles and allow them to become involved in curricular development.

It also focuses on the importance of developing individualised approaches to teaching, but it warns that there is no one measure to create the time and space required to meet this aim.

MSPs call on both the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Qualifications Authority to look for practical steps that would lighten the assessment and examination load on pupils and teachers in the upper secondary school.

The inquiry found that the assessment load of certificate courses constrained room for manoeuvre in managing teaching time and allowing scope for a range of learning styles, a recurring theme during the inquiry.

Exams and other forms of assessment could, for certain pupils, be key motivators, albeit perhaps in a negative way. But the report accepts that it is inevitable there will be a tension between the need for pupils to achieve academically and the wish to have more space in the school programme.

There was some consensus, the committee said, that reductions in class sizes, a decluttering of the curriculum (already agreed by the Executive) and minimising the impact of data collection and other bureaucratic activities would make a significant difference.

Peter Peacock, Education Minister, told the inquiry that 27 per cent of children in Scotland did not want to be in school. HMIE gave evidence that in one in 12 of the secondary schools it had inspected over the past three years it had found "wide-ranging issues of ethos, discipline and behaviour that involved more than just one or two departments".

The report states: "These comments suggest that significant numbers of Scottish children and young people are not motivated by their experience at school."

The committee finds that while many parties had a role in helping to motivate pupils, the Executive was best placed to provide leadership in "continuing to emphasise relentlessly the importance of education for everyone".

MSPs said they had learnt that pupils who were likely to become demotivated and detached from the system in their later years in education could be identified at a very early stage. Early intervention was vital in supporting them.

The committee calls on the Executive to "examine ways of working across the boundaries between different stages of the education system to help identify those most at risk of becoming demotivated at the earliest possible moment".

But the report stresses that the emphasis should not just be on special needs or the less able. It points to "some evidence in some schools that more able pupils may also be underachieving".

Leader 18

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