There are two very different views of A Curriculum for Excellence in this week's issue. It could "collapse on itself", according to the Educational Institute of Scotland (p1). But at one secondary school in West Lothian, "there is no sense that it will be impossible to deliver or doomed to fail" (p12). There were always going to be these contrasting attitudes simply because the experiences of implementation across the country have been so contrasting, as was confirmed in the surveys by the EIS and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland.
It is worth pointing out that, amid the sound and fury of alarm bells, ACfE is still being held together by a consensus, the voices of woe such as Lindsay Paterson's notwithstanding. As EIS education convener Larry Flanagan has himself said, the new curriculum gives teachers the opportunity to move away from the straitjacket of "targets, tests and tables" to enjoy "the professional exercise of flexibility, innovation and creativity". Pace Professor Paterson, the debate about how to teach and what to teach will rage on. And there will always be tensions about teacher autonomy and central direction.
The EIS survey was an opportunity for the union's members to vent frustration, and it may therefore have over-accentuated the negative. What do we make of the fact that 600 teachers, over half, failed to reply? Happy? Couldn't care less? About to retire?
Nonetheless, as we have pointed out many times, the varying experiences in the quality and quantity of continuing professional develoment are still a major concern. It is startling that almost half of the respondents to the survey had not been to any such activity run by their local authority. This could be to do with the lack of supply cover to release teachers, but it must be addressed. The Education Secretary said she has an initiative up her sleeve on CPD, as we reported on March 6. She needs to roll up her sleeves urgently.