5th September 1997 at 01:00
Glasgow is on the verge of one of the most momentous reforms of secondary + schooling ever contemplated by an education authority. Malcolm Green, the + city's education convener, said the plans "would make a reality of the + comprehensive ideal 30 years after it was initiated".Moves considered in + private by senior councillors on Tuesday could involve changes to the + curriculum and structure of secondary education. The focus would be on Standard+ grade which Glasgow considers has not lived up to its billing of + "certification for all".But the first, and most difficult, step would be to + tackle the 40 per cent overcapacity in Glasgow's secondary schools. Dr Green + said there was "an emerging consensus" that eight secondaries would have to + close, leaving the city with what it hopes will be 30 quality schools offering + a full range of courses. Any rationalisation programme would probably be phased+ over five years.Council leaders hope to sell this to parents and staff by + pointing to substantial savings of #163;1 million from closing a secondary + school which would mean releasing #163;8 million for reinvestment. The city + hopes to gain a substantial chunk of the #163;15 million available to Scottish+ schools under the Government's "spend-to-save" scheme which is intended to + help councils close schools."Everyone now accepts the overwhelming logic for + school rationalisation, " Dr Green told The TES Scotland in a special + interview. "The educational arguments have been rehearsed many times even if + they are often imperfectly understood." The difficulties of small secondaries + in offering the full Higher Still menu have further concentrated minds.Even + more radically, Glasgow is considering the effective abolition of catchment + areas, giving students the right to choose a range of subjects across the city.+ Free transport might be included to make this possible. Schools would be + encouraged to develop strengths and specialisms in both curriculum and + methodologies, although Dr Green said after Tuesday's meeting that the closure+ programme will have to be dealt with first. Glasgow's thinking is also being + influenced by what it sees as the shortcomings of the Standard grade course. + The education committee has already approved plans to develop an alternative + curriculum for third and fourth-year pupils who are turned off by the present + diet. This was given national endorsement in the Scottish Office's report on + underachievement published last December.Dr Green said: "The honest opinion of + most secondary heads is that Foundation courses are simply watered-do wn Credit+ courses, which are not motivating for pupils and have no currency. " He + prefers more practical and vocational courses. Pupils could progress from short+ courses and National Certificate modules to higher national units or degrees, + Dr Green said. These routes were not available when Standard grade was being + developed.One of the most popular courses for non-Higher pupils in fifth year + is travel and tourism. "This is the mind, Dr Green said. These are courses + which are practical but are also intellectually challenging and which lead to + good career opportunities. But this requires another change in attitude to + cease giving automatic esteem to academic courses and despising everything else+ as being for failures.Standard grade, he added, had been designed to give + every pupil a lick at gold and was part of the ghastly failure of the sixties + when we comprehensivised the structure while attempting to give everyone a + full, academic secondary education which was not appropriate for everyone and + which has sold young people short.He said: We should now grasp the chance to + make a reality of comprehensive education, matching courses to pupil abilities + and inclinations, to do what we claimed we have been doing for the past 30 + years but manifestly were not.The crisis in the citys schools was such that + doing nothing was not an option. We can no longer afford the traditional + approach to problems which was first to deny they were serious, second to admit+ there was a problem but say it was a matter of resources, and third blame the + Government and go back to what we were doing before.