Secure units take leading role in bringing CfE reforms to life

17th September 2010 at 01:00
Sector demonstrates `fundamental aspects' of new approach, says curriculum architect

Secure units have little to fear from Curriculum for Excellence - in fact, they often lead the way in bringing the reform to life.

So says Keir Bloomer, one of the original thinkers behind CfE, who this week said the sector was already demonstrating some of the curriculum's "fundamental aspects".

Mr Bloomer identified strengths in interdisciplinary learning, partnerships and the cultivation of self-esteem, during a presentation at the first conference organised by the Secure Accommodation Network Scotland.

He cited as evidence a TESS article (September 10), in which youngsters at the Good Shepherd Centre in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, were shown to excel during an ambitious film-making project.

The educators involved, who got the BBC to take part and involved staff of all subject backgrounds, had clearly demonstrated "Curriculum for Excellence-style thinking".

In light of such work, Mr Bloomer stressed that staff in secure units should not find CfE "scary". The reform was about "big ideas and inspiration", which did not appear to be lacking in secure units.

At the same event, which was a joint venture between the network and the Scottish Government's Determined to Succeed enterprise programme, delegates heard that CfE should prove liberating for education in secure units.

Kate Hannah, HMIE's lead inspector for alternative provision, explained that the personalised learning espoused by CfE should help children with a stop-start experience of education that sometimes involved very short spells in units.

It should also open up new areas of learning, by legitimising ways of teaching that did not need to be overseen by subject specialists.

Where there was no music teacher, for example, the Guitar Hero computer game could boost learning; park rangers and science centres could make up for the lack of a science teacher; and children could learn about a country's society, culture and geography from staff other than a modern languages teacher.

Dr Hannah warned that, while CfE opened up opportunities for secure units, it also left little room for excuses when a young person was removed from education.

She was always "a wee bit disappointed" at coming across instances where she was told that a young person would not be at a class because "he's having a bad time or he's not really up to it today".

Education in secure units should no longer be restricted to the education department, she explained. Instead, "we should be thinking much more broadly about education".

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

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