Political concerns over CfE

20th January 2012 at 00:00

Carole Ford's article on Curriculum for Excellence (16 December) gave an overly pessimistic view of this initiative which misses the point. CfE is presented in a rosy light by what Ms Ford calls the "education establishment" and her comments about management and communication are spot on. A lack of clarity about CfE's key purpose and failure to communicate it effectively have been a particular concern.

Most teachers do see CfE as an improvement. Many hope it will lead to better learning and teaching; deeper learning; better collaborative working; a reduced assessment burden; wider opportunities to achieve; and a better balance between academic and vocational pathways.

Secondary teachers are not expected to drop their subject specialism to teach literacy and numeracy; their role is to reinforce these key skills in their subject and to make the links between literacy and numeracy in their subject and others.

Nor are secondary teachers expected to fumble through unfamiliar content, but to work with colleagues in other subjects and provide more meaningful learning. This approach will link to work most schools are doing in Assessment is for Learning, Teaching for Understanding, enterprising approaches to teaching, and active learning, and is built on research evidence.

If CfE comes up short, it will be due to a failure of political leadership. Teachers' struggles with low levels of engagement, poor behaviour and low attainment in literacy and numeracy are related to social inequality. Bill Maxwell's presentation to School Leaders Scotland in November was eloquent on these issues and the gulf in attainment between the most and least affluent in our society. Many teachers will suspect that the current economic difficulties and the policies of the UK government will see this problem exacerbated.

Scotland appears to be deficient in some of the key characteristics which mark improving education systems - for example, Ontario and some Scandinavian countries. In a small country of just 5 million souls, do we really need more than 30 local authorities exercising control over education?

Our stated aim is to become world-class, but in the mix of relationships between central and local government and the other key players - Education Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority and so on - we lose the clear sense of focus and direction of travel that mark out the best systems.

I will continue to work hard to make CfE a success in my school. I am reasonably confident about how this will go, but less confident about the political context.

Colin Stewart, Houston, Johnstone.

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