Less is more in new guidelines

17th November 2000 at 00:00
REVISED guidelines for the primary and early secondary years, part of a 2.4kg barrowload of 5-14 documents issued in the past week, attempt to square the circle of stipulating curricular coverage while giving schools more freedom to meet their own priorities.

The Structure and Balance of the Curriculum retains the existing time allocations for each of the five areas of the primary curriculum, amounting to 80 per cent of the available time in primary schools. The same core proportion will also continue in S1-S2.

But Ian Barr, director for the 3-14 stages at Learning and Teaching Scotland which drew up the guidelines, points out that these should be regarded as minimum times across the whole primary and early secondary stages. "There are different priorities in different schools," he said, "and at different stages schools will need to spend more time on one learning activity than on another.

"But we believe it is important to set out the balance required over time as a safeguard so that provision in any one area is not depressed to the point which we would regard as putting it at risk."

Mr Barr said the key was "allowing schools flexibility and recognising the professionalism of teachers which gives them a paramount place". Schools which wanted to spend more time on writing could do so, while the balance within the 80 per cent primary core time could be tipped in favour of environmental studies in the final primary years, as pupils have to bridge the gap between the overall 15 per cent recommended for primary schools to 3 per cent in the subject-based years of S1 and S2.

Curricular debates over the years have raged back and forth between those who fear rigidity and those who say over-concentration on literacy and numeracy would narrow the curriculum. The revised guidelines state simply that "it is a matter of professional judgement to ensure that a necessary emphasis in one curriculum area does not detract from pupils' experience in other areas."

The guidelines also differ from the initial version in having a rationale for the 5-14 curriculum, designed to fit with approaches in the pre-school and later secondary years. The result is "a significant move to a full curriculum covering the years 3-18," Mr Barr said. But the watchwords remain "breadth, balance, continuity, coherence and progression".

Mr Barr defended the minimalist approach. "There are hard questions to be asked about the nature of the curriculum. But we were not asked to look at these fundamental issues. Our remit was to make minimal changes, to clean up the documents and make them more manageable."

The new guidelines are accompanied by a guide for teachers and managers on the 5-14 curriculum illustrating varying ways of implementing the recommended approaches. Learning and Teaching Scotland has also issued revised guidelines for environmental studies which has been realigned more closely with the relevant secondary subjects.

Health education and information and communications technology (ICT) have been removed to be given a stronger cross-curricular place.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today