Glasgow cop-out

7th July 2000 at 01:00
WHAT would you call a school in which the pupils were restricted to six Standard grades and they did not need to bother with a science, a modern language, or a social subject? A joke, a junior secondary, a betrayal, a brilliant idea, the future?

This question is not merely academic. It describes the current situation in Castlemilk High, Glasgow. The school's headteacher has been allowed by Glasgow City Council to introduce a new curriculum model. All pupils must study English and maths to Standard grade but their other four subjects are of their own choosing from a model which shuns the "modes".

The universally followed recommendations which give pupils a broad and balanced curriculum are to be ignored. The thinking seems to be that we give the pupils what they "like".

So what has happened? Academic subjects have been rejected by the mass of pupils about to enter the third year next August. Five children chose geography, six chose history and 12 chose French.

This will produce a cohort of kids with no knowledge of their own history or place in the world, no ability to speak a foreign language or empathise with our continental neighbours, and this at a time when we are told that about 1 million Scots are functionally illiterate and that our language skills as a nation leave muc to be desired.

This development raises a number of important issues. The Government claims education as one of its priorities but is prepared to allow a local authority to offer a restricted curriculum in one of its schools.

Studies have already established that pupils from scheme schools, especially in Glasgow, perform below their potential. Instead of helping and encouraging pupils to improve their performance, the Castlemilk approach seems to be to aim for the lowest common denominator. The message is, if it's perceived as difficult or boring, then just don't do it. Pick the easy (in a child's mind) options and avoid the challenging ones.

Do we really want to give our pupils this message? Children attending Castlemilk High will now leave school with fewer qualifications than their peers in other Glasgow schools and those qualifications they do possess may lack the necessary balance to take them further.

Are the changes really the best way to address the manifest social, economic and educational problems of our peripheral housing estates?

A final question? Would you send your child to a school that offered the curriculum described here?

And if not, why should you expect other parents to do so?

Hector MacSween

Queensborough Gardens


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