Some of Scotland's top academics have called for "a great deal more time and resource" to support teachers' continuing professional development, if A Curriculum for Excellence is to achieve its aims.
An expert working group of Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh this week delivered a devastating critique of the implementation of the new curriculum, saying the broadly-defined learning outcomes did not contain sufficient subject knowledge to develop the curriculum, and current reform plans were "inadequate".
Their report warns that the reforms will require "an unprecedented cultural change in the teaching profession".
It adds: "If a common understanding of each curricular area is to be developed by teachers, a great deal more time and resource, must be given for the continuing professional development of teachers in their areas of disciplinary expertise and in fostering interdisciplinary working."
The group was led by Geoffrey Boulton, general secretary of the RSE and a vice-principal of Edinburgh University; its members included educational thinker Lindsay Paterson, from the same university, who was an early critic of the curriculum reforms. It was set up to examine the draft outcomes for numeracy, mathematics and science, but later extended its inquiry.
Their report criticises the statements of experiences and outcomes for containing "hardly any mention of fundamental concepts, laws and methods. If a new curriculum is to be produced, the current documents provide an inadequate framework for doing so."
A way forward from what they describe as "an unsatisfactory position" would, they say, be to develop two strands of activity: the first being to exemplify how outcomes could translate into real learning tasks; the second being for a team of teachers to create documents that offer guidance on "logical conceptual frameworks that could link outcomes to a stronger learning journey".
They add: "There is a real need for transparent national leadership in the exercise. A Curriculum for Excellence suggests a greater extension of school autonomy, with a move towards a more flexible system in which schools and teachers have significant input into the direction of learning, which we welcome. However, we have grave concerns that, if not properly worked through, it could lead to different agendas being set in schools."
- Local authority CPD co-ordinators have been working on how to measure the impact of CPD.
Gillian Brydson, an education officer at Dumfries and Galloway who has chaired the working group, explained: "Now that ring-fencing has been removed, as a professional group we should be able to say that CPD funding has an impact in some way. We should not assume that funding training is a good thing - even if it's to say there's not a direct cause and effect, we have to be able to engage in that debate."
CPD Scotland was creating a resource bank of evaluation materials that authorities could customise and had created a portal on its website with links to evaluation materials, case studies and an online debating forum.
A colleague, who asked not to be named, said: "The real prize from high-quality CPD is about the impact on children - the difference it makes to their learning. It will be about young folk who find the relationship between themselves and their teachers more exciting, open, enjoyable, reciprocal and so their learning becomes more meaningful to them."