Donaldson calls for tougher use of time

30th September 2011 at 01:00
Ex-chief inspector urges teachers to embrace flexibility to make greatest impact on children

Teachers need to become more "hard-nosed" about their use of time so that they make the greatest possible impact on children's learning, they were warned last week.

In a hard-hitting speech at the Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow, former senior chief inspector of education Graham Donaldson exhorted teachers to embrace greater flexibility and professionalism.

And he warned that in policy terms, the quality of teaching and leadership had to be placed at the top of the agenda if improvements were to be made to children's learning.

The author of the report Teaching Scotland's Future and member of the McCormac review - now on the staff of Glasgow University's school of education - told a round-table discussion that both his report and the McCormac review were "asking very hard questions about what it means to be a teacher in Scotland - and what is the nature of professionalism".

Curriculum for Excellence's potential would only be realised to the full if teachers' professionalism was strengthened and reinvigorated, he said.

A profession that was strong and confident enough to be flexible would be able to respond to situations it found itself in, he counselled.

The nature of the curriculum reform was "like nothing else before" in his professional career, he said.

Never before had Scotland had this kind of broad education which guaranteed entitlements to young people.

Getting that broad base right was paramount, he said - and that was why he had been "consistently disappointed" when people in secondary education insisted they had to wait to see the new qualifications before they engaged with it.


Scotland's reputation remains high and its Curriculum for Excellence is regarded as world-leading, said Graham Donaldson, from a new-found perspective since retiring from HMIE 14 months ago.

But many international commentators are perplexed as to why its results in the Pisa comparator tables are not better, he said.

To improve its Pisa results - a measurement of children's achievements in reading, maths and science across OECD countries - Scotland has to arrive at a better understanding of what Pisa measures, he said.

And if it wants to improve its ranking, it has to improve the quality of its teaching and leadership.

He said: "We should not underestimate the significance attached to Pisa results internationally - but also in terms of inward investment. Businesses look at Pisa for an indicator of where the best workforces will be."

He had recently been involved in a review of Australian education for the OECD. "Australia does better than us in Pisa, yet it invited the OECD in because it is worried," he added.

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