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Teachers' new lot

More reforms will focus on teachers' professional development, deemed critical to the success of the latest phase of A Curriculum for Excellence. Neil Munro finds out what else is expected of them

Teachers will be the Scottish Executive's next target in its drive for "excellence," and they will be expected to be teachers of more than just their subject.

The latest episode of A Curriculum for Excellence, published today, makes clear that "teachers' professional development will be critical to the success of the programme and needs to be inextricably linked with the work to develop the curriculum".

In a significant departure, literacy, numeracy and pupils' health and well-being are to be made the responsibility of all teachers, since these areas are seen as contributing to learning across the board. Performance in literacy and numeracy will also be separately reported on in language and maths, which is in line with recent proposals by Jack McConnell, the First Minister.

Material will be published before Christmas, setting out "the attributes and role of teachers for excellence".

It is intended that this will start to coincide with new "streamlined guidance" on the 3-18 curriculum, which will sweep away the existing advice including the 5-14 guidelines. The work currently being undertaken on the sciences will be the first to appear, in December.

The executive would not be drawn on the details of the teachers' initiative this week, but it will extend to initial teacher education and probation, as well as CPD. It will be aimed at "nurturing (teachers') enthusiasm".

Teachers have been given some clues as to what will be expected of them from today's publication, Building the Curriculum 3-18, which sets out the role each area of the curriculum should play in the reforms.

The document aims to strike a balance between the new and the familiar so there will be no attempt "to throw the baby out with the bathwater", as Dan McGinty, the engagement team leader for the reforms, put it recently. The structure of the curriculum will be particularly familiar, as it is built around the eight "modes" for the S3S4 curriculum set out by the Munn committee in the 1970s.

But there is to be much more official emphasis than ever before on defining the curriculum as "extending beyond subjects" to include the ethos of the school as a whole, inter-disciplinary projects and pupils' wider achievements, such as those recognised under the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.

Building the Curriculum also spells out the importance of measuring pupils' performance solely on the basis of what they do in school. They should have the chance to show what they can do in the workplace, at college and outdoors. "The curriculum areas are not intended to be rigid structures," the document states. "There will be considerable scope for innovative approaches to building the curriculum."

One of those most closely involved with the development is anxious that "teachers start thinking hard about the territory with which they will have to become familiar and to reflect on their contribution to children's learning against the four capacities".

The four capacities, set out in the original A Curriculum for Excellence, require schools to produce youngsters who are successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society. All areas of the curriculum will have to deliver each of these capacities, the latest plans confirm.

The executive remains guarded about when the new curriculum will be fully in place, not least because a general election is getting in the way. The latest aim is that there should be "adoption in earnest" from August 2008, when HMIE will begin to use the new curriculum guidance in its judgments of schools.

Uncertainty surrounds the exact timescale for implementation, especially after the S3 stage, because ministers have still to make up their minds about the shape of the qualifications regime, including the future of Standard grade.

Report, 4; Leader, 20

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