Go it alone council wants more control of primary curriculum;News amp; Opinion

5th November 1999 at 00:00
RENFREWSHIRE has broken ranks to demand more regulation of the primary curriculum to ease classroom pressures and allow more time for the basics.

Other authorities are moving in the opposite direction and pressing for teachers to have room for manoeuvre. But Renfrewshire wants to halve the existing 20 per cent flexibility element.

John Rooney, its principal curriculum officer, said schools wanted more time to concentrate on core work at a time when the Government was demanding higher basic standards through target-setting. Adding more flexibility would be "a cop-out".

Authorities are responding to the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum's review of the "structure and balance" of the 5-14 curriculum, which emphasises flexibility as a key principle. An initial consultation closed last week.

Renfrewshire wants to increase the time for language and mathematics to 25 per cent and 20 per cent against the current national recommendation of 15 per cent. Daily lessons in language would lengthen from 45 to 75 minutes and in maths to an hour, a move not dissimilar to the literacy hour prescribed south of the border.

The 20 per cent flexibility headteachers have over the curriculum would be cut to 10 per cent. Heads say the additional time is already spent on learning the basics.

Mr Rooney argued: "There is a concern that in a rapidly changing education scenario there are continuing demands on the curriculum and when you have 25 per cent flexibility sitting there, you are vulnerable to the charge that you have got the room."

Teachers said they wanted to stop the encroachment from other curriculum areas and the imposition of additional pressures on core work.

Angus Gillies, head of Bridge of Weir primary and a member of the Renfrewshire working group looking into the matter, said a high flexibility factor gave the impression there was a lot of spare time but there was none in an already overladen curriculum. Most schools already used their flexibility for language and maths and that had to be recognised.

Mr Gillies described the 20 per cent flexibility factor as "ridiculous". His preference is a mere

5 per cent which should only be used by teachers to overcome a particular difficulty or prepare for a special project.

The Scottish Council for Research in Education is to study the submissions made to the curriculum council's questionnaire and submit a report to a review group chaired by Fraser Sanderson, director for education in Dumfries and Galloway. The group is likely to produce outline proposals for reforming the 5-14 curriculum in the new year.

North Lanarkshire was the first authority to recast the curriculum two years ago to put more effort into the basics. But it preferred to find the extra space from environmental studies where the time allocation was cut back from 25 per cent to 15 per cent during the first three years of primary.

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