Keep in line with change and move into the future

9th May 2003 at 01:00
If the Scottish Executive really wishes schools to reflect the changes that are taking place in our world at an ever-increasing rate (TESS, last week), it has to do a number of things.

* Fully implement the staffing required to maintain reasonable class sizes in S1 and S2 and meet the requirements of Higher Still. It is particularly difficult for an average-sized school to give all 16-plus pupils an individually appropriate curriculum.

* Finance all schools to implement fully the Better Behaviour, Better Learning report, enabling them to provide time-out facilities and training for staff to become experts in behaviour management, pupil esteem building, etc.

* Finance schools to be able to afford appropriate ICT equipment even if basic PPP funded com-puter packages are very expensive for schools, since it is vital that our pupils are fully ICT literate.

* Invest in research on models of senior school management: we are in danger of having a myriad of different systems and, while div-ersity can have benefits, so much divergence could pose difficulties.

* Modernise the training colleges so that they are dealing with the issues that are really central to effective learning and teaching and pupil development, such as co-operative learning for which we have had to import expertise from Canada.

I wholly believe in being proactive, but the success of this approach depends very much on the degree of consultation before decisions are made.

There has been a degree of mis-match. With the introduction of Standard grade and the provision of "certification for all" it was an obvious next step to develop courses at various levels at Higher. However, this has really meant a measure of academic qualifications for all - at the expense of vocational programmes.

Many of our pupils now achieve Standard grade where they would not have met the requirements of Ordinary grade. But what real value are these qualifications when a vocational future beckons? By addressing this, I feel there would be a positive effect on the behaviour and attitude of an increasing number of our pupils who do not have their needs met at present.

Behaviour in schools has cer-tainly been in decline for a number of years, with pupils very quick to claim rights but not always keen to accept their responsibilities. Exclusion doesn't solve the problem; it merely provides a little respite.

As far as general educational standards are concerned, it depends on how you measure success. We have become increasingly efficient at gradually increasing 5-14 scores and have been even more successful at Standard grade and Higher.

But if you look at national priority areas such as citizenship and enterprise, it is arguable that these now represent what society very much wants from education - the emergence of youngsters who will listen and respect each other.

It may be that if we get this social entrepreneurial side right, the parallel academic results would more than surprise us.

Bill Hope

Rector, Elgin High School Moray

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