Earth sciences under threat

28th September 2012 at 01:00

Kirsten Herbst-Gray (21 September) is certain that no subject has suffered more from Curriculum for Excellence than modern languages and Stuart Farmer (14 September) is concerned at pupils electing to drop certain subjects, even though their study would be beneficial to the life chances of the individual and the well-being of the Scottish economy. I would suggest that the Earth sciences are set to suffer more, as geology is not even to be developed as an SQA qualification as we transfer into this new era.

Can many subjects match the Earth sciences for their potential to integrate across disciplines, to contribute to the Scottish economy and perhaps most importantly to find relevance to the future of our planet?

At a time when industries related to Earth science contribute enormously to the Scottish economy and have already identified a likely shortfall of future employees, it makes no sense to cut off this opportunity for personal choice of study which acts as a progression route to vital, well- paid careers.

Geology has always been very much a minority subject that has been inaccessible to most senior Scottish pupils and in these recent difficult financial times for schools and education as a whole, a strategy is needed to develop and promote such pathways as an investment for the future, rather than as unwelcome expenditure.

Scotland has a reputation for innovation in education and now is the time to demonstrate that further, by developing new ways of bringing what are presently low-access subjects to learners throughout Scotland, thus broadening the curriculum.

Time is running short as the current certified courses reach the end of their shelf life, so a strategic plan is required which draws upon the needs and expertise of the main stakeholders of industry and higher education (who were not consulted on the decision in 2010 to close off the study of Earth sciences as a qualification in the senior phase) and those who are charged with responsibility for the curriculum of our senior phase. Surely we will not have to rely on our neighbours south of the border to facilitate such a progression route for Scottish pupils or look to other countries for our employees of the future.

Peter Harrison, headteacher, Ullapool High.

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