Primary task for Peacock

13th June 2003 at 01:00
MEMO to Peter Peacock: if you want the support of teachers, slim down the primary curriculum, scrap national testing, cut the bumf and ease back on central direction and quality indicators.

The new Education Minister's representatives in the Perth conference hall were left in no doubt about the mounting pressure to reform primary education after a succession of speeches highlighted the impossibility of delivering an overloaded curriculum.

Maggie Anderson, Argyll and Bute, said: "It is impossible for the primary teacher to plan, prepare, teach, assess and evaluate all the strands of the 5-14 curriculum - and still be a human being."

Teachers in one week could be planning up to 20 curriculum areas. In English language alone, there were 30 strands at each of the four levels.

It was a rare class that had children working at just one level.

"Recently, a colleague told me he could not take part in a local sporting event because he had to get through the curriculum," she said.

Patrick Boyle, a Paisley primary head, said aspects such as personal and social skills and citizenship would now be integral to HMI inspections.

"Things are not getting better: they may be getting worse," he stated.

May Ferries, Glasgow and past union president, urged Mr Peacock to jettison the Balance of the Curriculum national document and allow teachers to make their own judgments. "We need to restore primary education to the glorious thing it used to be and I would like it done before I have to retire," she said.

Susan Quinn, Glasgow, condemned "tick-box assessments and ridiculously oversized" reporting procedures. One set of reports ran to five A4 pages covering every aspect of the 5-14 curriculum.

Kay Barnett, Aberdeenshire, called on Mr Peacock to limit the use of quality indicators."We are now engaged in a bureaucratic paper-chase which can often place us as highly trained professionals on the defensive," she said.

The quality assurance system had assumed far greater importance than classroom work.

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