Excellence and us: let's talk about it
The modern world is changing at an unprecedented rate, technology is developing rapidly and the key markets for Scottish businesses - and therefore jobs - are evolving and changing.
If we can develop our young people to be creative thinkers who are resourceful, adaptable, flexible, confident and responsible, then they - and Scotland - will be in a better position to succeed in a global economy.
Curriculum for Excellence is designed to do exactly this by bringing a new focus on the skills and capacities we want pupils to develop through the experiences and outcomes, and ensuring that the way pupils are taught can maximise the opportunities to build these skills.
I know that the vast majority of teachers have been working hard to prepare for Curriculum for Excellence. During visits to schools, from Wigtown to the Western Isles, I've seen fantastic examples of the type of creative, imaginative teaching that will be the hallmark of Curriculum for Excellence.
I believe it is vitally important, as the new term begins, that we press ahead with our work to drive these important changes forward. That means you, as teachers, continuing to innovate, push the boundaries and learn from each other.
As I've said before, Curriculum for Excellence is much more about considering and reviewing how you teach than changing what you teach. The knowledge that underpins learning in physics and French, after all, will remain the same. How you engage learners in making better use of all they learn - and making connections across what they learn - and in achieving higher standards of learning is where the difference needs to lie.
We need you, as highly skilled professionals, to do what you're good at and teach. We're giving you more time and space, free from the rigidity of curriculum and assessment in the old system, to make sure your pupils get their teeth into the subject and are inspired to learn.
Fantastic progress has already been made and the Scottish Government and its partners have been working to deliver the support promised when I launched my 10-point plan in March.
I am pleased to update you that we are looking to hold the headteachers' seminars in late September, October and November, in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and Irvine. These events will give heads across Scotland an opportunity to speak directly with Scottish ministers about the new curriculum and the progress being made. They will also give them an opportunity to engage in professional dialogue, learn from one another and feed back to staff. If you are a headteacher and are interested in coming along to one of the events, please let us know (email below).
Of course, everyone working in education may have questions they want to ask or views to feed in. That's why, for the first time in education, I've set up a direct line of communication with the Scottish Government.
If you want to get involved and share your views on Curriculum for Excellence, or other topical areas in Scottish education, log on to the Engage for Education website I've set up to give teachers and others with an interest the chance to have their say on education policy. You'll be able to read and comment on regular blogs from myself and my ministerial team, get involved in our workshops and find out about the latest education news from the Government.
Other firm actions from our 10-point plan include HMIE refocusing its work to provide hands-on expert support in schools where it is needed, extra funding to support moderation of assessment and a series of Excellence Groups being set up to provide subject-specific advice. Furthermore, the proposal for literacy and numeracy to be integrated within English and maths courses at SCQF levels 3-5 (with free-standing units also available at these levels) has now been agreed by the management board.
We are also providing greater information and clarity. Keir Bloomer and David Cameron produced summary versions of key curricular documents and I have written to the parents of every Primary 7 pupil to explain the changes in education currently taking place.
At the end of term, we spoke to "customers" for education - learners, parents, employers - about their communication needs. Again, they have confirmed that they want to hear from you: the trusted professional, the expert, the teacher who knows their child. Parents want to discuss Curriculum for Excellence at parents' evenings, with support to understand what it means for their child. Learners want to hear about it at assembly - from their peers, in the everyday language they use and understand.
As part of the communications toolkit, I recently launched a number of short films, featuring real schools experiencing Curriculum for Excellence. These films could be used in school assemblies to help illustrate the changes to pupils, at parents' evenings to show parents the new style of teaching or even to local business people to encourage them to get involved in a relevant project in your school. They build on the products we've already made available through the parental toolkit and leaflets to provide you with a suite of materials on the curriculum.
As you start the new term, I would like to thank you for all your hard work so far on Curriculum for Excellence. I would also like to emphasise that I genuinely believe that Curriculum for Excellence is an opportunity for you - to use and develop your skills and really bring out the best in your pupils by tailoring what they learn and the way they learn, to really inspire and promote an interest in learning that lasts well beyond their school years.
Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.