Government loses ACfE plot

24th July 2009 at 01:00

I have played "critical friend", "devil's advocate", "reflective practitioner" and, yes, "champion" of A Curriculum for Excellence over the last several years. But, having witnessed the reaction of my staff to the glossy folders they received at the end of term (and they are not known for their militancy), then this latest move to convince the profession that everything with it is hunky dory has already badly backfired.

A few facts which should make unpleasant reading for any remaining in Learning and Teaching Scotland, Victoria Quay and HMIE who have not lost touch with the reality of the chalk face:

- 210.6 kilos of folders (plus cost of postage) arrived at my school

- staff are already running bets on who will keep the cellophane on the longest

- a competition has been started for "novel uses" for the folder - door stop has been suggested because of uneven classroom temperatures and something to balance the LCD projector on, as we have no money to fit these properly

- 56,800 teachers, giving total weight of folders as about 184,032kg (plus postage)

- Pounds 10 a package minimum equals Pounds 568,000, when my staff are using their own money to buy basic classroom equipment

- per capita not increased here for 20 years

- somewhere buried in various outcomes will be respect for the environment, being ecologically friendly, encouraging a "paperless" society and so on.

In all seriousness, if you are a science teacher, are you going to read the drama and modern languages experiences and outcomes as a priority? Why all the pretty charts? If you are in a PPP school, you are not allowed to put these on the walls. As Billy Connolly observed, "the Queen isn't deluded by a world populated with red carpet, fresh paint and hastily- planted flowers".

I am determined to make ACfE work for my school and still support the principles and the need for change. However, this latest gaffe on behalf of the Government has made that task a lot harder to achieve with teachers at the chalk face who also largely support the principles behind the initiative.

It is also bad timing when the collective guns of the Educational Institute of Scotland are already rumbling in the distance. What ammunition has just been provided for them to scupper the ACfE ship?

In her covering letter, Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop says "examples of excellence in teaching and learning are shared widely so excellence can become commonplace."

Are any of the literacy experiences asking for an explanation of "paradox" and "oxymoron"? (ACfE lesson for Fiona - never trust a civil servant to write a letter for you without having it proof read). Surely, if excellence is ever commonplace, it is not excellent and should be described as mediocrity?

She then noted - in bold - that "the national assessment framework will be available in the summer". Is this a textual shout aimed at the "back-room boys" trying to dig us out of an assessment nightmare?

In conclusion, you can apply as much gloss, spin and rhetoric as you wish to ACfE. But, until classroom teachers see the shape of assessment, exemplar timetables and examples of cross-curricular initiatives, plus the time and resources to plan properly, they will not be convinced by a costly, shambolic PR stunt such as this.

I am saddened that I had to pen this because I am a firm supporter of Scottish education and get much job satisfaction out of seeing young people achieve. However, I feel strongly that someone has to question all the sycophancy and rhetoric being generated by the ACfE spin doctors, and call for a reality check.

The author is a secondary headteacher.

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