Expectations and workload do not mix

5th November 2010 at 00:00

Even the most enthusiastic devotees of Curriculum for Excellence would have to admit that its progress has been slow. At the chalk face, we have lost count of the number of hiccups and false starts, from the "only five subjects in S4", whose legacy lingers on, to the complete re-think on literacy and numeracy assessment.

There appear to be two significant reasons for this somewhat convoluted path to implementation: the resistance of the management board to any form of genuine debate, and an apparent inability to see the effect of its decisions on schools.

Unfavourable comment or contrary views are given little weight and merely regarded as evidence of negativity - witness the removal from the board of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, because of its concerns about teacher workload.

I have to ask if the management board has seriously considered this issue or simply dismissed it as self-serving. Just one example illustrates the extent of the problem.

Pick any science outcome you like and work through the implications for teachers. I have chosen SCN3 - 16a: "I can differentiate between pure substances and mixtures in common use and can select appropriate physical methods for separating mixtures into their components."

The first step is to identify the scientific concepts cunningly concealed within the outcome. Next, identify the individual lessons, probably about nine or 10 in this case, which will deliver the concepts - the nature of matter, distillation, filtration, chromatography, problem-solving in relation to these processes, traditional methods.

Now decide on the necessary experiments and activities for each lesson and provide the details of equipment, chemicals and quantities to the lab technician to have the trays prepared. Go back and check for literacy, numeracy, health and well-being outcomes. If there are none, or too few, then alter lesson plans to incorporate these elements.

Add all these outcomes to your recording system. For the moment, forget about assessment and reporting, because this is still a grey area - but it is looming in the background. Repeat for all science outcomes.

Workload, what workload?

Carole Ford, headteacher, Kilmarnock Academy.

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