The changing classrooms challenge

1st September 2000 at 01:00
FOUNDATION pupils who continue to fail academically need individually tailored curricula and alternatives to conventional education, says Matthew Boyle, co-editor of the Scottish Council Foundation publication, Changing Schools, that was summarily dismissed by union leaders.

Mr Boyle, a principal teacher of physics in Glasgow, responded rapidly to criticism that the ideas behind the publication were out of touch with classroom developments. He described union comments as "glib and predictable", and said it was important to challenge current educational values.

Mr Boyle is author of the acclaimed package, The Learning File, which advocates new ways to encourage pupils in the classroom. Along with fellow co-editor Graham Leicester, he called this week for schools to be allowed to experiment with different approaches to problems.

"So many kids fail in what we are doing - which is no criticism of my colleagues - but they still have to make it in this world even if they can't cut it with academic kids. Maybe we do need more bespoke education," he said.

Any new drive on tailored curricula would involve employing more teachers, a feature unions should welcome, he said.

Most adverse comment centred on the view by the foundation, the social policy think-tank, that schools were "stuck in a Victorian timewarp".

Changing Schools is the result of a one-day conference involving business leaders. A key contention is that the political focus on measurable exam results produces sterile schools.

It states: "In this model, tiny improvements in national exams become the sole focus and narrowing the curriculum to allow more intense targeting of those who are seen as more capable becomes the one club policy. The problem is that we have reached a plateau."

The authors argue the current system is working flat out and may only deliver a few percentage point rises at Standard grade. "The failures from the system will remain relative failures. And those who succeed will in only a few years' time - like us, and like their future employers - question the value of what they have really gained in passing these examinations," they say.

"Do we want free-range learners or battery hens?" they ask.

Changing Schools - Education in a Knowledge Society is published by the Scottish Council Foundation. Contact: www.scottishpolicynet.org.uk


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