GTC takes government to task

5th October 2007 at 01:00
IN AN unusual clash with official policy, the normally cautious General Teaching Council for Scot- land has slated aspects of the curriculum reform programme as "slow" and "ephemeral".

But the Government is standing by the approach of eschewing "big bang" implementation.

The GTC, nonetheless, claims to detect a lack of confidence about A Curriculum for Excellence which is "breeding uncertainty" among teachers, a paper presented to last week's meeting of the GTC in Edinburgh asserts.

The council, which is dominated by union voices, does not appear to have abandoned its support for the new curriculum in principle, but the contents of the paper left observers in little doubt about the extent of its concerns.

The strength of feeling led the council to ask Matthew MacIver, its registrar, to take up the matter with the programme board responsible for the new curriculum.

Ian Smith, convener of the GTC's education committee, said there was "a need for a road map showing the direction of travel and specific, clear, meaning- ful milestones".

While stressing that ACfE had "underlying positive principles", Professor Smith noted the slow rate of progress and expressed scepticism about whether HMIE would shift its focus sufficiently from attainment to achievement.

Professor Smith, who is also dean of education at Paisley University, based his comments on observations made in a paper from the council's education committee.

It points to scepticism among teachers about the level of "genuine de cluttering" of the curriculum, and raises concerns that an unintended consequence of the move towards more cross-curricular work may be a "negative impact on the integrity of existing subjects".

The paper also reflects alarm, again echoing long-standing fears among the GTC's union members, about the involvement of non-teachers in the classroom, citing references in ACfE documents to the delivery of the curriculum by teachers "and other educators". This would "fundamentally undermine the likelihood of success for A Curriculum for Excellence," the council's report states.

Assessing overall progress, the paper continues: "The slow pace of development and the seem- ingly ephemeral nature of some aspects are breeding uncertainty within teachers, who remain to be convinced that its principles can be delivered."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman countered: "A Curriculum for Excellence is about achieving transformational change within the Scottish education system, which would not benefit from 'big bang' implementation. It's a programme of change that includes curriculum content, assessment, qualifications, initial teacher education, continuing professional development and accountability.

"Draft outcomes have been made available for reflection by teachers and education authorities on science and numeracy, and further material will be released in the coming months."

She added: "We are now moving into a period of active engagement with the draft outcomes and a consultation exercise on possible changes to the qualifications system is also planned for next year."

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