Schools not built to inspire

11th September 2009 at 01:00

Like Keir Bloomer, I noted Fiona Hyslop's description of A Curriculum for Excellence (TESS August 21) as "the biggest transformational development in Scottish education in decades".

The development is certainly big but, despite the scale, it is sometimes hard to say what it is about ACfE that is really new. Almost all the principles underlying the four capacities have had currency in Scottish education since at least the 1980s, and one can trace back a lot of the guiding philosophy much further. The very existence of this development, however, suggests such aspirations remain unfulfilled.

For ACfE to be truly transformational, our schools would have to give much greater prominence to those capacities beyond "successful learners".

Sadly, though, the structures of schools - particularly those of secondaries - seem purpose-built largely for the delivery of this one capacity. They creak so much under the weight of delivering something more inspirational that gains in the other areas seem sometimes destined to be no more than marginal.

Mr Bloomer is right, therefore, to suggest that real change may require a profound review of the structures of schools - and, indeed, of the structures in place to measure their effectiveness.

When I walk into my S4 English class on Monday period 1 (trying not to think of the Standard grade folio deadline), I will of course attempt to respond to Ms Hyslop's exhortation that we should all lead educational change. However, I fear that, despite a million such little classroom skirmishes with the status quo, our national aspiration to provide something richer may prove futile in the face of a machine honed over many decades to serve a vision far less grand.

John Devine, depute headteacher, Blairgowrie High.

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