Mixed feedback for HMIE on CfE support: report

23rd September 2011 at 01:00
Teachers unsure of interdisciplinary requirements

Could do better seems to be the conclusion of a report on inspectors' support for schools struggling with Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

Independent research into HMIE's role in supporting and challenging schools has uncovered "mixed views" on the impact of their work.

Secondary principal teachers were least convinced of the benefit of a programme of almost 400 events across Scotland up until March this year - but also harboured a "misperception" that they had to offer more interdisciplinary learning than was actually necessary.

"Some secondary school staff, particularly principal teachers who are subject specialists, perceive their primary aim to be to ensure that pupils have the necessary knowledge and skills to pass specific exams and this can be seen to conflict with the implementation of interdisciplinary teaching within their school.

"This issue was raised time and time again throughout the focus groups and some principal teachers feel that they have created very artificial or contrived scenarios to introduce interdisciplinary learning," found the Partnership Support for Curriculum for Excellence report.

Heads of primary and secondary schools, and quality improvement officers were the most positive about the programme, according to analysis of feedback by George Street Research.

On the whole, participants said they valued opportunities for professional dialogue with HMIE and other colleagues to discuss and compare approaches to CfE and to clarify expectations.

But when asked which aspects they found most helpful, 57 per cent identified "group discussion with peers", while presentations, the opportunity to work with HMIE and question and answer sessions with presenters each rated a much lower 24 per cent.

The research uncovered some worrying findings:

  • some teachers claimed they had received contradictory information on, for instance, whether they could still use 5-14 criteria for assessment;
  • secondary principal teachers had different interpretations of what constitutes "secure", "consolidating" and "developing", the new terms for describing a pupil's progress.
    • Assessment and reporting were identified as the key area in which teachers want further support. They also wanted to see practical examples of peers' work.

      The programme of events for thousands of teachers across Scotland was launched last year under Education Secretary Michael Russell's 10-point plan to provide further impetus to implementation of CfE. From August to December, HMIE suspended its inspections of secondary, special and all- through schools and associated community learning, and reduced its inspections of primary schools and early years centres.

      Although a large majority of respondents claimed to be well informed about CfE before attending the events, their awareness was based on a "theoretical rather than practical understanding", the research found.

      A survey revealed that 67 per cent claimed their practice had changed to some extent as a result of the support, while 32 per cent said it had not changed. Secondary PTs were least likely to have changed their practice.


      Varied views

      "I think there were a number of heads came away from that, feeling . they hadn't had anything clarified, particularly. It was just a kind of overview of Building the Curriculum 5 and it wasn't really taking us very much more forward . We did think at the end, `have we gained anything?'"

      Edinburgh secondary headteacher

      "It gave them confidence, in fact some of them were saying `Well, we are going along the right lines anyway'. It just gave them that reassurance . and it gave them a kick start."

      Western Isles quality information officer

      "I can see why it works in the junior phase (sic), in primary, I can see that when it is one teacher and they are delivering the whole curriculum and it can alternate, but let's face it, employers want to see Highers qualifications, and everything is going to branch into subject. That is what parents understand, employers, colleges, universities understand, so this is why everybody is confused."

      Glasgow secondary principal teacher.

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