Ahead of the game
A SCHOOL which has made groundbreaking moves in reorganising the curriculum has been lauded by an independent evaluation - even though the report's author says the experiment runs counter to the thinking behind A Curriculum for Excellence.
Eric Wilkinson, professor of education at Glasgow University, has praised the reforms at Kirk-cudbright Academy for giving pupils the opportunity to accumulate more qualifications over a period of time. The school presents all its Standard grade pupils for their exams in S3, a year early. A Curriculum for Excellence, on the other hand, has "set its face completely against early presentation for Standard grade" and represents "outmoded thinking", he says.
He joins a small but growing band of influential academics criticising aspects of ACfE. Writing in The TESS last month, Lindsay Paterson of Edinburgh University suggested it was "vague to the point of confusion on too many matters to be a proper basis for new educational practice".
Professor Wilkinson's comments relating to exam presentations come as the Scottish Qualifi-cations Authority is embarking on a consultation on the implications for exam qualifications of the curriculum changes.
However, Dugald Forbes, rector of Kirkcudbright, said he believed his new structure had the potential to work well within the ACfE framework.
Nevertheless, he emphasised that assessment was the "biggest question" that still had to be addressed. Mr Forbes, who has been invited to work with Learning and Teaching Scotland on the ACfE "architecture", said key questions included: "What kind of assessment are they looking at?" and "What are they going to measure at the end of S3?"
He said: "We have always said we wanted to create space in the senior school for youngsters to build up a portfolio of qualifications - we are not trying to get fourth year qualifications out of third year kids."
Starting with the first intake in 2003, the academy's pupils spend three years in "junior" school (S1-3), taking external exams at the end of S3, then move to "senior" school (S4-6) to take Highers, Intermediates and vocational courses.
Professor Wilkinson found a significant difference between the pupils experiencing the first year of the project with those in the last year of the old arrangements. The former were "better motivated, more engaged with learning, more focused and more responsive," he said.