Actions speak louder than words
As the teaching unions pile on their criticisms of the new curriculum, one of the main driving forces behind it has moved to quash claims that pupils would only be allowed to sit five examinations in S4.
Gill Robinson, the chief professional adviser to Learning and Teaching Scotland, said it was one of a number of myths that had grown up around A Curriculum for Excellence. She said the assertion had gained currency because it was used in the consultation paper on qualifications purely as an illustration of how much better pupils' experience in S4 would be than it was at present.
Other "myths" were:
- ACfE would be about inter-disciplinary or thematicsubject learning; it is both;
- a broad general education up to S3 is the same as the S1-2 common course; it is a "common set of minimum expectations";
- active learning means being energetic; it is about exercise for the brain, not the body;
- the experiences and outcomes up to Level 3 represent a menu for pupils to choose what they like; it is not a "pick `n mix" approach.
Dr Robinson was speaking in Edinburgh at one of the events being staged throughout Scotland aimed at turning the experiences and outcomes into action.
She acknowledged there was a tension between what some felt was the "vagueness" of the curriculum plans and "specificity". She added: "We deliberately haven't specified the detail because, if you do that, people will stick with the detail and not go past it. We wanted to leave headroom for teachers to be creative and innovative."
Nonetheless, the reformers are taking action to answer some of the worries about vagueness. Additional material will be issued to go with the experiences and outcomes in literacy, numeracy and science "to bring them to life," she revealed.
Despite the gloomy findings of the teacher survey by the Educational Institute of Scotland (TESS May 8), Dr Robinson said: "We are able to be optimistic and ambitious for what we are trying to do, because of the highly-professional teaching force we have in Scotland. We are also confident because self-evaluation, where we examine our practice and plan for improvement, is now deeply rooted in Scottish education."
She said the reform was the result of an "unparalleled engagement" with teachers who had helped with trials of the proposals in 500 schools and other centres.
The authorities hope that another concern of teachers, how the assessment and qualifications regime is to fit in with the new curriculum from 2014, will be laid to rest in the next month when the Government publishes its final plans following a period of consultation.
An assurance from Colin McLean, director of the schools group in the Scottish Government, sought to slap down the claim at the annual conference of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association by president Ann Ballinger that more teacher assessment would dilute standards.
Mr McLean said ministers, and the Scottish Qualifications Authority, were "absolutely determined that the new qualifications will meet the needs of all learners and users, because they will be based on assessment which is rigorous - whether it's internal or external."
Teachers will have been able to pore over the fine detail of the curriculum plans from this week, as lorries were despatched with 100,000 hard copies of the final version of the experiences and outcomes to distribute to every teacher.
The Government says it has provided pound;17.8 million for local authorities to implement A Curriculum for Excellence, as well as pound;4 million for 100 extra teachers.