Final guidance unveiled

3rd April 2009 at 01:00
Some subject areas are substantially rewritten, while others have undergone minimal change

As Scottish Government officials admit that implementing the curriculum reforms are their "big, big challenge", significant changes were revealed this week in the final guidance to support A Curriculum for Excellence.

Serious criticisms were directed at the draft versions of the plans in science, technologies and health and wellbeing, which have now been rewritten; some areas have simply been tidied up. The full details appeared on the revamped ACfE website yesterday.

Fiona Hyslop, Education Secretary, said: "We have the opportunity to provide a fresh approach which focuses on all the experiences children and young people encounter during their time in education. In this way, we can address all abilities at all stages with a teaching and learning approach based at local level."

Meanwhile, one of her senior officials told The TESS: "We can produce nationally based guidance, but the education system has a very strong immune system: if it doesn't like something, it will just reject it."

A recent briefing paper for the "implementation partnership" on the new curriculum, led by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, identified three external factors which had the potential to disrupt implementation: the media, the recession and a change of policy.

But the Scottish Government and Learning and Teaching Scotland insist the quality assurance and consultation process they have carried out has addressed concerns about the draft "experiences and outcomes" for pupils. They say changes have not been made in response to "whoever's voice has been loudest", but followed a series of high-level reviews by advisers and leading practitioners.

Some of the most vociferous complaints emerged over issues such as substance misuse and relationships in the health and wellbeing area, but the final version of the curriculum guidance has not moved significantly from the draft version.

Guidance on the sciences also provoked heated debate, following a number of interventions from bodies, including the Royal Society of Edinburgh, that the draft versions of the experiences and outcomes lacked conceptual detail.

A study by Glasgow University researchers, led by Vivienne Baumfield, Kay Livingston and Ian Menter, attempted to give the LTS writing teams insights into teachers' responses.

One of the most significant findings of their report, which was also published yesterday, was that teachers' concerns about vagueness and lack of detail in the draft guidance tended to dissipate once they started classroom trials. This underlined the benefits of sustained engagement with enhanced support.

A key tension remains, however: how to strike the right balance between allowing sufficient flexibility in teaching and offering detailed exemplification for those who need more of a comfort blanket.

LTS plans to publish more exemplification on literacy, numeracy and science in May.

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