Scottish Office report on 'Improving Achievement in Scottish Schools' and the Government's response.
The main changes approved by the Secretary of State include a Pounds 9 million pump-priming sum over the next three years to pilot early literacy and numeracy schemes from P1-P3; national guidelines on these skills; a new primarysecondary transfer form to quash the "fresh start" approach; and a tightening up of quality assurance procedures.
The recommendations, with the Government's responses in italics, are:
1. Education authorities should give priority to nursery education in deprived areas in their pre-school year and desirably earlier. Priority should not be determined solely by the relative strength of parental demand as measured by the presentation of vouchers.
If there is any evidence that parents in deprived areas are finding it difficult to redeem vouchers, or that information on how to use the vouchers needs to be tailored to particular groups, appropriate action will be taken before the system is extended nationwide in August 1997.
2. The nursery curriculum should firmly emphasise pre-reading and maths activities.
Consultation on the pre-school curriculum is due to end in February and the finalised framework will take account of this recommendation when it is issued in early summer.
3.Education authorities should give priority to early intervention schemes and the Scottish Office should develop national guidelines for basic literacy and numeracy schemes.
The Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum (SCCC) is to be asked to develop a national model.
4. The Scottish Office should support local authority expenditure on early intervention.
The Secretary of State has decided to introduce a grant programme and will discuss the details with education authorities as a matter of urgency to allow pilot projects to proceed in the coming financial year.
567. Nursery and primary staff should have clear advice on introducing reading and initial teacher training should ensure students are competent in the teaching of reading at the early stages. A method of assessing children entering P1 should be devised, and an investigation carried out into the feasibility of using primary test results for value-added information.
The inspectorate is to publish a report on effective practice in early reading in 1997. The review of teacher training courses will consider whether more detailed advice is required. The national working group on value-added measures will consider the assessment proposals.
8. National guidance on the S1S2 curriculum should be prepared urgently.
The inspectorate aims to conclude such a review by next summer and to co-ordinate its work with a similar investigation to be undertaken by the SCCC.
9. A standard transfer form for P7-S1 should be introduced nationally.
The Scottish Office is to consult education authorities on how best to do so.
10. More positive guidance on assessment should be given to primary teachers.
HMI will review the guidance available.
11. Good examples of courses for P6-S2 should be disseminated. Priority should be given to environmental studies and religious and moral education; the environmental studies material should illustrate how subject teaching could be introduced into P6 and P7.
The SCCC will be asked to prepare these exemplars.
12. The Scottish Office and education authorities should cost ways of achieving better primary-secondary liaison.
A number of schools already do so within existing resources, but the HMI review of S1S2 will identify and disseminate good practice.
13. S1S2 classes should be formed to reflect information from primary.
This is "wholly consistent" with the HMI recommendations for subject setting.
14. Schools should make full use of published advice on the balance between indivial, group and whole-class teaching.
HMI takes every opportunity to reinforce key messages on the importance of ensuring that teachers deploy a variety of teaching methods.
15. The Scottish Office should evaluate work done in schools on the teaching of thinking skills.
The need for research will be considered.
16. Schools should have access to an alternative to Standard grade for S3S4 pupils.
The SCCC will be asked to take this into account in its current revision of the secondary curriculum guidelines.
171819. The Scottish Office should promote a publicity campaign to promote parent involvement in education, including the lessons to be learned from projects in deprived areas, and commission a package of parent support materials.
The Scottish Office will consult the SCCC and parent bodies on whether existing materials need to be made accessible. The Government "is not persuaded that a national advertising campaign would prove effective".
20. All schools should have a policy for monitoring attendance and should be given special support where pupil absence is a serious problem.
The Scottish Initiative on Attendance and Absence is leading the way, helping to share good practice.
21. Supported study should be maintained or introduced.
The Scottish Office is giving financial help to the Prince's Trust for this work and will be considering a request from the trust for funds to establish a national database on study support.
22. Enterprise education should be considered for inclusion in the curriculum.
Business and enterprise are fully represented in the secondary curriculum, and the 5-14 programme offers similar opportunities for younger children.
23. Teachers, pupils and parents should be involved in self-evaluation processes that focus on improving teaching and learning.
The revised set of HMI performance indicators is intended to assist this "fundamental" work. Heads are expected to involve all the key players in developing plans for improvement.
24. Senior primary staff require more non-contact time.
This is a matter for collective bargaining in the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee.
25. Arrangements for training, selecting and supporting headteachers should be reviewed.
Management training for headteachers was a pioneering initiative devised in Scotland and is seen as valuable both to aspiring and serving heads.
2627. Schools should link into the Scottish Schools Ethos Network to effect improvements, particularly in promoting the culture of "a learning school".
The network is open to all schools.
28. The Scottish Office and education authorities should continue to develop a sound quality assurance system through self-evaluation.
The Government is pleased to note the commitment to that process from authorities and schools.
29. School development plans should be geared to improvements in pupil attainment and examples of good practice should be circulated.
HMI will shortly publish Making It Happen in 12 Schools, which will be sent to all authorities and schools.
303132. Some staff development time should be targeted on making learning more effective and improving relationships in the school, the development programme should be well-funded and appraisal aspects should be simplified leading to a professional code of practice for teachers.
School inspectors expect to find these features in development programmes. The Government is disappointed with the poor progress on teacher appraisal and proposes to seek improvements, including the scope for simplification. A professional code is a matter for the profession itself.
33. Education authorities should evaluate the use of devolved school budgets through quality assurance arrangements.
The Government has already allowed for th