Involvement crucial in curriculum design

24th August 2007 at 01:00
I heartily commend Dalziel High and Keith Grammar on their Higher exam successes this year, following early presentation at Standard grade, (TESS August 10). But may I point out the salient fact that, irrespective of when or even if a pupil takes Standard grades or their equivalents, pupils who have longer to study and prepare for Higher examinations should do better.

Unlike the situation in Dalziel and Keith, the "two-term dash" is still alive and kicking in the vast majority of schools. Many, including my own, are trying other innovative ways of releasing the extra time required. This, however, has led to such a pick-and-mix of curriculum design that pupils transferring between schools are at a distinct disadvantage.

We are on the threshold of a new era of curriculum development and, as a profession, we need to embrace the opportunity to be involved in its design as well as delivery.

A Curriculum for Excellence proposes to offer S1-3 as a single stage. During this time, pupils should be engaged in learning how to become more "successful learners" with a greater understanding of the "how" to learn rather than the "what", thereby making subsequent learning more effective.

If we accept this as one of the fundamental capacities in ACfE, then we need to ask ourselves serious questions about our national examination system, such as:

* do we still need a diet of examinations for all 15 to 16-year-olds?

* should we proceed to some kind of exit exam?

* could we offer pupils some kind of internationally recognised Baccalaureat?

Ian Smith (TESS July 27) proposes one exam at 18. He also advocates the techniques from Assessment is for Learning, which have proved so popular and attained world-wide recognition. Formative assessment, up until such time as an exit point is reached, would certainly release valuable curricular time.

We need to get involved in the Scottish Qualifications Authority's consultations, as mentioned in your August 10 leader, and ensure our voices are heard. Only in this way can we get back to a uniform and strengthened national examination system.

Ruth Clark

depute headteacher, Ullapool High

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