Learning themes unravel in secondary

19th September 1997 at 01:00
Progress in implementing the 5-14 programme in secondary schools varies greatly, with subjects other than mathematics and English falling badly behind. Government-funded research shows that many principal teachers have abandoned their own previous predictions for implementing the guidelines.

Mary Simpson, of Northern College, who has led the research, says that the secondary element of 5-14 "is not being brought in as a programme but through individual departments". Professor Simpson told The TES Scotland: "Any department with a forward-looking principal teacher is moving ahead but that may not be the same elsewhere in the school."

She is especially critical of traditionally minded maths teachers who have not looked at how pupils understand and learn their subject and is not surprised by Scotland's poor performance compared with other countries.

Mathematics, however, is the subject showing greatest progress with 5-14. In a TES Scotland article (page 24), Professor Simpson and her colleague Jonquil Goulder state that the guidelines are "substantially complete" in 58 per cent of maths departments, according to principal teachers, and in 32 per cent of English departments.

Five years after the guidelines were published almost all maths and English departments were "well under way" with them. But principal teachers of other subjects said a year ago that progress was considerably behind what they had expected in a survey in 1994.

The research concludes that there are three groups of teachers: those using 5-14 to "strike out and experiment", those implementing the guidelines in a superficial way without reflective questioning or sensing a need for radical change, and those who have achieved little.

The researchers fear that further progress with 5-14, which has led more teachers to differentiate materials according to pupil ability, will be stalled as attention turns to the demands of Higher Still.

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