Let's get on with it

30th August 2013 at 01:00

We might as well stop moaning and get on with it - that seems to be the feeling at the start of term as teachers around Scotland launch into the new National qualifications. There's a certain resignation to the fact that the next stage in rolling out Curriculum for Excellence - the senior phase - is upon us. Never mind the talk and the theory and the protests; the first internal assessments for National 4 have to be completed by the end of September.

Despite the momentary panic, those teachers who have seen Standard grades come and go know that they'll get it done. Yes, the workload is heavy, as they're doing all the National 4 assessments internally, but deep down they know it will be fine. They are professionals.

What a different position they are in compared with colleagues in England, where education secretary Michael Gove appears to have little confidence in teacher assessments, steering away from coursework to external exams at GCSE and attempting to drive up achievement by driving down grades at A level.

And when the Westminster government is not driving down grades, it seems to be driving down salaries. Scottish teachers may not be happy with the local authorities' offer of a 1 per cent pay rise, but at least they're not facing performance-related pay and the scrapping of automatic increments.

However much teachers in Scotland may complain about curriculum and assessment reforms, these changes have been more than a decade in the making and are not the latest whim of a single education secretary, and for that we should count our blessings. We cannot, however, afford to be complacent. Curriculum for Excellence will have to prove itself when the first cohorts of students leave school. It will be a few years before we hear from employers and universities about whether future intakes are demonstrating the greater thinking, problem-solving and creative abilities that the supposedly deeper, richer learning is intended to produce.

Ask teachers now if they notice a difference in the children who have come up through the new "broad general education" and the response is far from convincing, but some of that may be down to the half-hearted way in which many schools have taken on the reforms, clinging to well-worn methods. The true test will be over time, as school leaders gain confidence in the new system and relinquish more of the old.

Life in school, of course, carries on as usual: this summer's exam results are still being dissected; teachers are getting to know new arrivals; they are brushing up on child protection guidelines, Scottish government policies on Getting It Right for Every Child and the "well-being wheel".

The importance of the wider pastoral role of teachers has been highlighted only too vividly this summer by headlines of child abuse, online bullying and teenage suicides.

Gillian Macdonald is a former editor of TESS.

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