A survey of secondary teachers by Scotland's largest teaching union has revealed that 70 per cent of respondents lack confidence in their department's ability to deliver the new National 4 and 5 qualifications on schedule.
The findings will be used to bolster the campaign being waged by the EIS for schools to be given the option to delay implementation of the new courses by a year.
The EIS random online survey of 10,000 of its secondary members got a response from almost 2,500 (25 per cent) in the space of two weeks, although only 1,834 answered the questions. The union's incoming general secretary, Larry Flanagan, described it as the highest it had ever had in relation to Curriculum for Excellence.
Responses highlighted concerns over workload and the need for additional resources to implement the senior phase of CfE in their school. Eight-two per cent said the quality and level of support provided by the Scottish government in preparation for the senior phase was "unsatisfactory".
When Mr Russell gave evidence to the education committee this week, he was at pains to offer support to individual teachers and departments who felt unprepared, inviting them if necessary to contact him or Education Scotland directly.
But Mr Flanagan said: "The fact that over 80 per cent of teachers rate the quality of support from the Scottish government as unsatisfactory displays a clear disconnect between the rhetoric of improved support from the cabinet secretary and the reality being experienced by teachers in schools."
Mr Russell told the committee he had asked Education Scotland to carry out a school by school audit to ensure their readiness.
Bill Maxwell, chief executive of Education Scotland, said district inspectors and area advisers would offer a "menu of support", ranging from fielding HM inspectors to advise principal teachers, to talking through subject-specific issues and offering additional support materials. Mr Russell promised additional, tailored continuing professional development and time out of class to develop resources.
Talks between the EIS and the education secretary are likely to deliver additional in-service days in June and August, direct funding to departments who need specific support and centrally-produced materials to support the teaching of National 4 and 5 courses.
Mr Russell insisted that schools should wait until the summer before finally deciding they want to delay - by which time they would have received "every ounce" of support available from their local authority and Education Scotland.
But he warned that a delay in implementation could be damaging to children's education.
Switching from Standard grades to Intermediate courses instead of moving to the new Nationals would require pupils to adapt their learning to "ensure their success in Intermediates for which they will not have been prepared", he said.
But Mr Flanagan countered: "Michael Russell is saying that picking up Intermediates would be an issue, but it would be easier than doing National 4 and 5 because at least they exist."
Mr Russell quoted from a letter written by Iain Ellis, chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, to opposition education spokespeople: "Our view is that delay is actually unworkable - many schools do not deliver Intermediates and their teachers would have to re-course to deliver these, and then re-course again the following year to deliver Nationals."
TEACHERS' VIEWS IN THE SURVEY
- The information is coming to us too late for planning. Teachers do not really understand the curricular frameworks. Schools are not confident about taking forward their own models when they hear the school up the road is doing something different. There is no time to evaluate courses already implemented. We are in year 2 of CfE in secondary and I find it hard to see how schools can abandon CfE in favour of existing courses.
- The disjointed staggered and confused release of information masked as "draft" has resulted in a chaotic approach to planning. If teachers' lessons were delivered to pupils as poorly as the CfE has been communicated to teachers by SQA and government, our children's education would be doomed to failure. I suspect overworking and teachers' loyalty to pupils will save the day while the government and SQA will try to take the credit.
- CfE is an excellent idea unbelievably badly implemented. Schools scared to hold their hands up and say they're not ready. Immeasurably glad I don't have a 12-13 year old who is going to be a guinea pig for National 45.
- Mr Russell needs to take the concerns of teachers seriously. Many directors of education may genuinely believe they are well-placed to deliver the new qualifications because headteachers tell them that is the case. Headteachers either don't know or won't admit that they really don't know if their school is or is not.
Has CfE senior phase been included in your school's development plan?
Yes - 84.1%
No - 15.9%
In your school are pupils to be provided with a broad general education over their S1-3 experience?
Yes - 75.4%
No - 24.6%
What type of curricular model is your school to use?
2+2+2 - 30.0%
3+3 - 30.5%
Don't know - 39.5%
How confident are you that your department will be able to deliver the new qualifications at National 4 and 5 from 2013-14?
Fully confident - 3.3%
Very confident - 4.6%
Confident - 22%
Barely confident - 47.1%
Not confident at all - 23.1%.