At last - curriculum is a horse, not a cart

5th March 2010 at 00:00

In her February 19 column, Marj Adams compared Building the Curriculum 5 to tripe and reiterated her oft-stated belief that Curriculum for Excellence lacked substance.

What she and many others fail to recognise is that CfE is intended to be an enabling set of documents designed to set out broad principles, values, purposes and outcomes. It is designed to help us move beyond standards- based reform and to help teachers do what they do best, which includes giving pupils what she calls "the sheer joy of the learning experience".

It's entirely understandable that secondary teachers feel threatened when they don't know what the examinations will look like, but BC5 has finally shown us that the curriculum is the horse and the assessment system is the cart, and not the other way around. And, to push the metaphor a bit further, both learners and teachers will be in it and they will be devising ingenious ways to measure the "sparkle and verve".

Where Ms Adams is right is that it's easier to talk a radical game than to play one. But many classroom teachers are already in the cart playing that game. She simply needs to visit any school where the staff are trained in critical skills and applying it in the classroom. Ironically, there are many in her authority.

One of the best known writers on transitions is William Bridges. He sees them as a three-stage process: an ending, a period of uncertainty and a new beginning. He points out that beginnings are accessible to everyone if people open up to them, even though everyone has trouble with them. Beginnings will be untidy but they come when we are ready, and we need to grasp the opportunities to move on when they arise.

Ian Smith, divisional director, Cambridge Education: Learning Unlimited, Atlantic Quay, Glasgow.

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