Head wants fewer exams for failure pupils

4th September 1998 at 01:00
A SEVERELY slimmed down Standard grade curriculum to help underachievers is suggested by the headteacher of one of Glasgow's most deprived secondaries as controversy grows about a growing underclass of school-leavers south of the border.

James Cathcart, head of Castlemilk High, has produced a booklet, Back to the Future, advocating a reduction of compulsory courses to English and mathematics, plus religious and physical education, personal and social education and information technology. All other courses would become elective.

Mr Cathcart, who prepared his study while he held Glasgow's headteacher fellowship, said the aim was for a smaller number of academic subjects, which many pupils "see as boring and irrelevant". There should be a focus on core skills and personal development which most pupils regard as "important and essential".

Few pupils are coping with the pressures of an eight Standard grade package, Mr Cathcart claims. Compulsory modern languages have been a "source of problems", but there is no strong reason for insisting on a science or social subject either.

His curriculum is intended to motivate pupils described as "the disappeared, the disaffected and the disappointed". South of the border such pupils have contributed to a record number of outright failures in this year's GCSE exams despite generally rising standards.

The average S4 attendance at Castlemilk is just over 75 per cent. But more than 11 per cent of the roll, or 15 pupils, attend only half of the time or less.

The Munn report of 1977 which formed the basis for Standard grade allowed traditional subject divisions to flourish, Mr Cathcart claims. His alternative curriculum emphasises the core skills of Higher Still and would prepare pupils for the new Scottish Group Awards. "Even for the minority of S4 summer leavers or S5 winter leavers, gaining as much credit as possible towards an SGA would be a valuable target."

But when Glasgow backed a plan to separate a group of poorly performing first-year Castlemilk pupils from their peers this session, the Educational Institute of Scotland warned of a return to "remedial classes".

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