Carole Ford hit the curricular nail bang on the head

23rd December 2011 at 00:00

Everyone wants Scottish education to be the envy of the world again. Surely Carole Ford cannot be the only one who can see that the strutting emperor which is Curriculum for Excellence is 100 per cent stark naked (TESS, 16 December)?

The 5-14 period had its failings, but it was very prescriptive. Standard grades, 5-14, modules and Higher Still were all introduced with a relatively clear plan in mind.

I think CfE is the first educational initiative in which a detailed contents list has not been forthcoming. Learning and Teaching Scotland (now Education Scotland) would have won the hearts and minds of every teacher in Scotland if, as well as the Es and Os, it had provided one.

Teachers will have a hard enough time getting to grips with the huge demands of how to introduce CfE without being left totally in the dark on the contents of this excuse for a vibrant and much-needed curricular upheaval (sic).

The trouble with CfE is that the outcomes are so vague that teachers will be left to develop, individually, their own perceptions of what each level means. In mathematics, their understanding could vary by as much as 18 months in curricular content. What about the assessment of this new curriculum? What assessment? Each school will be left to its own interpretation - a potential recipe for disaster.

And the National 4 and 5 initiatives? Why not simply choose the best of the Standard grade and Higher Still courses, clarify the objective, do away with the twin presentation and examine externally, as we have done for 25 years?

As with the old O grade system, only the top 25-30 per cent of the year group will now sit regulated and standardised exams and will be rewarded by a fairly prestigious award. The remaining 70 per cent will leave our educational establishments with a wee bit of paper which says "I done good - I think". Every pupil who follows a National 4 course will, of course, pass it eventually. (Remember the S56 modules assessment fiasco?)

The real problem secondaries are going to find is a lack of the drive that our exam systems engendered. Where will the pressure be put on pupils and staff if there is no exam, no real objective at the end? There will be no need for a period set aside to revisit-review-revise, no need for a mid- term prelim. No solid past-paper practice. It's just a money-saving exercise.

This deplorably thought out, so-called forward-thinking initiative really angers and saddens me. Scotland will lose another generation in its latest kamikaze attempt at making change for change's sake.

I just hope it won't take another five years for the educational establishment to analyse what the CfE initiative has done to Scottish education, and eventually admit that they got it wrong - again!

Tom Strang, former principal teacher of maths at Clydebank High, and co- founder of TeeJay Publishers.

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