Editor's comment

20th March 2009 at 00:00

One after another, secondary heads lined up this week to share their fears about A Curriculum for Excellence with government ministers and officials. Some of their arguments were familiar: the effect of budget cuts on staff development and training; the programme's lack of structure; the inachievable timescales. But the biggest worry in secondaries is that until teachers know what the new qualifications and assessment arrangements will be, they cannot plan what they are going to teach in S1-3.

That concern, maintains senior chief inspector Graham Donaldson, is "fundamentally misguided" - teachers need to trust that, this time round, it is the curriculum that will drive assessment, not the other way round. Headteachers, however, are a sceptical bunch. They will remain uneasy until the assessment framework is published in July - a date many would describe as rather late in the process.

Some schools are confident in their rate of progress towards the new curriculum; teachers are reforming their style of teaching, making it more active and collaborating enthusiastically with colleagues in their own and other departments. The overall picture, however, is of a "patchwork quilt", as Ronnie Summers, education convener of School Leaders Scotland, acknowledged.

The danger is that the flexibility inherent in this programme will expose weaknesses to a greater extent than the current system does.

Even the best teachers, however, need the reassurance that what they teach is what pupils will be assessed on. The Government has promised to publish the assessment framework by summer, but there has been slippage in timetables before - it must not happen this time. Government action over the next few months will indeed be critical.

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