Make the best of what you have

1st May 2009 at 01:00
Head of the inspectorate: No additional funding to implement A Curriculum for Excellence

It is "unlikely" there will be additional money to implement Scotland's biggest educational reform in a generation, Scotland's chief inspector of education has warned.

Graham Donaldson told an audience of education professionals last week that it had come to be assumed that improvement went hand-in-hand with increased resources. However, it was becoming "obvious", because of the economic crisis, that additional funding to implement A Curriculum for Excellence would not be forthcoming.

Despite such warnings, pressure from teachers to "fully fund" the new curriculum is mounting.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, which is holding its annual congress later this month, will debate a proposal to ballot on industrial action if "attempts are made to impose ACfE without adequate funding". Delegates will also be asked to call on the Scottish Government to provide evidence immediately that the new curriculum can be delivered within the available resources. Another motion proposes delaying its implementation until "resources are fully prepared and available".

According to Mr Donaldson, everyone from teachers to local authorities will have to "think creatively" and make the best of what they have. There had been a 43 per cent increase in education spending over the past 10 years, he said, and the "big challenge" was to "use that resource to best effect".

He called on each person to move forward with the changes quickly. The need for Scottish education to become better at preparing pupils for the fast pace of change in the outside world was first raised in HMIE's Improving Scottish Education report in 2006. "At that time, it seemed important and urgent. Now, it is really urgent," he said.

He acknowledged that some people felt ACfE had taken a long time to "gestate", but countered that the benefit of this was to give people "time to get comfortable" with it and think about the implications of the new curriculum "school-by-school and teacher-by-teacher".

Mr Donaldson was speaking at an HMIE conference in Edinburgh to highlight good practice through workshops and in the inspectorate's new publication Learning Together: Opening up Learning, the first of a series of Learning Together guides.

Opening up learning

Clentry Nursery in Fife serves the former mining village of Kelty, which has high levels of deprivation, unemployment and a poor health record.

Speaking at the HMIE conference, headteacher Audrey Kinnersly said parents lacked the confidence to support their children in their learning, so staff used questionnaires to identify the areas where parents felt they lacked skills and knowledge.

This led to the nursery running cookery courses, first aid courses, parenting classes and ICT training. The nursery also started a fruit and vegetable stall when it became clear there was nowhere in the village to buy good quality produce.

Pupils at Dunbar Grammar in East Lothian complete individual questionnaires about their experiences of school and learning in each subject, said headteacher Paul Raffaelli. The electronic questionnaire, called SELS (Schools Evaluation of Learning), asks pupils to agree or disagree with statements like: "I am glad I am taking this subject"; "I regularly receive praise"; or "My teacher is interested in my progress".

Mr Raffaelli admitted the school had to be "careful" how the questionnaires were introduced and had given a guarantee that teachers would not be "wheeled into" the headteacher's office.

The most recent survey had triggered a debate about homework, he said, because it uncovered some doubt around the statement "we get regular homework".

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