14th March 2008 at 00:00
It is a frightening thought but, by the end of this week, MSPs on the parliament's education committee will have spent longer discussing A Curriculum for Excellence than most teachers.

That is the estimate of Larry Flanagan, education convener of the Educational Institute of Scotland, who was one of a line-up of experts last week trying to explain to the politicians what the curriculum was, and wasn't; what it should be, and wasn't; and what needed to be done to make everyone understand what it was.

Clear? Well, not really. Clarity was one of the main ingredients missing, declared the speakers representing local authorities, heads and teachers - for once all in agreement.

The problem, said David Cameron, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, was that the curriculum had been "a cloistered development", with a limited number of local authorities giving parents and pupils the opportunity to engage with it.

Cloistered? Not a bit of it, protested Brian Cooklin, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland. "It has not even got out of the monastic cell, yet!"

Apart from publishing the draft aims and experiences online, the people leading the development have done little to communicate their vision to teachers, he argued.

Hear, hear, agreed Mr Flanagan; it was "ludicrous" that the draft aims have not been distributed to schools. He was not impressed that guidance for teachers should be available only on the Learning and Teaching Scotland website.

As for promises that the schools digital network, Glow, would provide all resources teachers needed, he was unconvinced. "Maybe in the future it will be a marvellous resource, but it is a nonentity for most teachers," he insisted.

So, was the committee any further forward in its understanding? If not, Mr Cooklin offered enlightenment: "As I travel the country, I am frequently asked 'What is A Curriculum for Excellence?', and the answer is 'Anything you like'."

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