Let's take Ford's curriculum argument up a gear

6th January 2012 at 00:00

Carole Ford has raised key issues being faced by teachers in secondary schools across Scotland (16 December).

The development of Curriculum for Excellence should have been about a focus on learning and teaching issues and improving what is going on in classrooms. This could have been achieved through an extension of Learning and Teaching Scotland's Assessment is for Learning programme. Instead, it has been split into subject areas that are linked to National Qualifications and the focus is on content and new exams in discrete areas of the curriculum.

At the same time, teachers are dealing with changes to the school timetable, as most authorities move to a 33-period week, and different timetabling models are emerging as decisions are taken on whether to offer five, six or up to eight subjects in S4.

On the subject of literacy and numeracy, pupils who complete primary education with very poor skills are likely to be in a supported class in secondary, with help available from a support for learning teacher not qualified in maths or English and without the training which could make a difference.

Carole's point about interdisciplinary learning is also well made. My own experience has shown an initial enthusiasm across school but, with no "ring-fenced" time set aside for planning, the focus recently has moved to the National Qualifications documentation and teachers have started to concentrate on their own subject areas, giving less time to planning interdisciplinary learning.

Similarly, with numeracy and literacy, both were initially to be assessed across the curriculum. Now they are to be assessed within maths and English departments, which has led to less focus from other departments.

With literacy and numeracy assessment now part of English and maths, some authorities are saying that Level 4 CfE and National 4 are approximately the same, so in order to have the 160 hours necessary for completion of courses, work should start on N4 and N5 in S3. This means an August 2012 start when the final course documentation is not available until April 2012.

For maths it may be worse, because in order to teach N5 maths, candidates must have covered the content of N4 which would mean starting it in S2. So schools in this situation should already have started, even though the final documentation is not yet available.

Name and address withheld.

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