Parents underwhelmed by new curriculum

19th August 2011 at 01:00
Survey shows biggest concern is whether teachers can implement changes

Parents have expressed concerns that teachers are unwilling or incapable of implementing Curriculum for Excellence.

A survey by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) found that parents were generally supportive of the reform in principle, but concerned about how it translated in schools - particularly secondaries.

The largest number of concerns fell under "negative attitudes, reluctancecapability of teachers and heads to change practice".

Outdoor learning and co-operative learning were among the most common changes noticed by parents, who had predominantly primary-age children. But 21 participants were aware of little or no change.

Few parents saw evidence that CfE was allowing them a bigger say in the running of schools, with only three identifying parental involvement as an area where they had witnessed change.

SPTC executive director Eileen Prior was struck by the continuing confusion about CfE among some of the 101 parents surveyed.

"Probably most notable was the enormous variety of comments about the benefits - there was absolutely no consensus," said Mrs Prior.

"In marketing, it's understood that selling the benefit is the key to success, but on that measure CfE appears to have fallen well short of the target," she said.

Almost all participants - 97 of the 101 total - had received their information about CfE from their child's school, but only 48 from their local authority.

Most were persuaded that CfE was a step forward, with greater relevance of learning deemed the biggest advantage.

Mrs Prior said the survey had prompted an "extremely animated response".

"The overall impression is that parents are generally behind the new curriculum but have mixed feelings and concerns about its implementation, particularly in secondary school," she added.

The SPTC's annual conference, in November, has been entitled "Making Sense of Change" and will build on the findings.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "This is a small survey, but it still shows that 75 per cent of parents back Curriculum for Excellence.

"We will build on this by continuing to provide information to parents, pupils and others, and our active dialogue with them will pick up areas where further information is needed."

Education Secretary Michael Russell has written to parents of all S2 children - who will be the first to sit new National qualifications - to point them towards information on CfE, at www.LTScotland.org.ukParentzonecfe

He invited parents to ask questions about CfE at www.engageforeducation.org and promised that everyone would get a response.

See Letters, page 32

MUMSNET PANIC OVER NEW QUALIFICATIONS

Angus Council has sought to reassure parents after concerns over new qualifications led to an animated discussion thread on the internet forum Mumsnet.

One parent posted that Angus Council would permit pupils to take only five of the new National 45 qualifications when they are introduced in 2013- 14, thus narrowing the breadth of study that was a strength of Scottish education.

Councils were allowed to choose a number between five and eight, the poster said, before adding: "I am seriously concerned that if children in Angus can only choose five subjects they will be badly disadvantaged in the future career or education market, and feel that S3 is far too young to be narrowing down such serious choices."

An Angus Council spokeswoman said that "almost all" pupils would follow six courses in S4 - maths and English alongside four others - and that its curriculum model "wholly reflects national guidance".

Delaying subject choices until S3 rather than S2 allowed a broad general education for a further year and a "more secure base of learning", she added.

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

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