Mr Smith said teachers needed to think more deeply about pupil abilities. The curriculum, especially in early secondary, forced them to typecast pupils early on as a way of organising their teaching. Setting and streaming assumed intelligence was fixed and general and could be measured accurately.
"Kids come into school wanting to learn and believing they can learn but during their school years because of parental and societal attitudes they get much more fixed about their capabilities. The message coming out is 'I'm no good at drawing or maths'. We need to challenge these fundamental beliefs we have as teachers and parents," Mr Smith told the Association of Educational Advisers in Scotland.
He said the 5-14 curriculum was trying to cover too much and did not allow for in-depth work. Staff were crying out for practical help in the classroom and concerned about motivating pupils. "They want to do a good job but they are not getting enough support," he said.
* The picture of advisers as "collectively unstable, paranoid and terminally gloomy" is changing for the better, Alastair Horne, outgoing president and 5-18 adviser in Angus, said. "We have a new Government and perhaps we are now entering a period of security and stability, many of the old networks are still thriving and some interesting new ones have emerged, and we are beginning to regain a voice."