Curriculum reforms put teachers first

3rd November 2006 at 00:00
he Scottish Executive's curriculum reforms were always going to be tricky to implement. It could not be too radical an overhaul so as not to frighten the horses; on the other hand, the demands of the "something has to be done" lobby had to be satisfied. Building the Curriculum, the latest glimpse into the future published today (pages 1 and 4), fleshes out some of the detail about how the baby can avoid sharing the fate of the bathwater. The work in progress will probably leave teachers reassured rather than excited: the Munn "modes" have not gone away.

The executive and its curriculum planners have set their own tests against which the reforms should be judged. These are the famous "four capacities"

which schools are expected to develop in their pupils - successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society. Apart from the occasional query about how these principles emerged, they appear to have achieved a consensus in a short time.

The document has moved things a stage further. It sketches a future in which the curriculum is more than just the sum of its parts: pupils'

endeavour has to be inter-disciplinary, all-round achievement is of the essence and subjects have to make a contribution to each other. And, while all parts of the curriculum are no doubt equal, some are more equal than others: the renewed emphasis on literacy in all subjects attests to that.

It remains to be seen whether this will be any more successful than the rallying cry of "language across the curriculum" sparked by the Bullock report 21 years ago.

But, above all, there is a new focus - "teachers for excellence" as well as a curriculum for excellence. This could be significant. It may prove to be a first: when have past reforms been accompanied by a parallel programme of teacher development? Along with the new curriculum guidance which will begin to emerge in December, teachers will be given their own guidance.

They will expect it to be underpinned by the "light touch" promised when the reforms were mooted. The pledge of "nurturing teachers' enthusiasm" is a promising start.

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