Too many pupils are taking needless Standard grades, an enterprise conference heard. David Henderson reports
Secondaries have failed a generation of pupils by focusing narrowly on outdated academic subjects.
This was the message from Peter Galloway, head of Trinity Academy in Edinburgh, given this week at an enterprise in education conference for top business leaders, run by the Scottish Executive.
Mr Galloway, a member of the national review group which produced the Determined to Succeed report, said every secondary had neglected the real needs and interests of the 50 per cent of pupils who did not go to university.
"Eight Standard grades is far too many for many pupils and they are getting nothing out of it. Give them the core subjects of maths and English and whatever and get them out into the workplace, meeting you people. That's the way to go," he told the invited audience.
Mr Galloway's school was the venue for the launch of the Executive report on enterprise earlier this year, and it has been a regular stop for Westminster and Holyrood ministers when promoting what they regard as positive aspects of education.
The head attacked the "terrible subject bangers in education" who defended the teaching of narrow bodies of knowledge.
"We do not need them any longer. They are finished, dead. The unions may not like it but we have got to employ people who are cross-curricular and enterprising. You have got to have someone in senior management who believes in this or it's stone dead," he warned.
Mr Galloway said he had been able to appoint most of his staff and demanded that they show enterprise before getting the job. They had to show enthusiasm and energy in the classroom.
He described the Determined to Succeed report as "the most influential document ever to hit schools in the last 20 years". The Executive had pumped in extra cash (pound;44m) to make it happen and allowed heads flexibility in organising the curriculum.
Mr Galloway said he had some pupils doing fewer Standard grades and working one day a week out of school, including one in a major hotel and another in the local cat and dog home.
"It's a wonderful experience," he said, adding that one boy had rushed in with his maths homework because he was going out on work experience. "He wouldn't have done that before," the head continued.
All senior pupils enjoy a taste of work experience at Trinity and are monitored during their placements. "Some schools only have work experience for the less able: it's a nonsense," Mr Galloway said.
Lynn Hendry, the project director of the Determined to Succeed project in the Executive, said a key strategy of ministers over the next three years was a substantial programme of staff development in leadership.
"What we are trying to engender is a culture change in our schools, and people need to go back and be agents of change in their own organisation.
That's no small challenge but it's a fundamental strategy," she explained.
David Millar, head of Businessdynamics (formerly Understanding Industry), said it made sense for businesses to liaise with schools, not least in terms of staff development for companies.
"Research shows that 75 per cent of 14 to 19-year-olds have very little understanding of business," he said.