Status quo is not an option

14th July 2000 at 01:00
IT may be helpful to Hector MacSween (TESS, July 7) and others if I briefly describe the innovative curriculum that is being piloted at S3 and S4 level in Castlemilk High School.

The proposals are the result of many years of research by the headteacher and they have been tested against some of the leading curricular thinkers in Scotland. There will never be unanimity in any debate about curricular structures, especially at S3 and S4. Practically every teacher in Glasgow, and certainly teachers at

Castlemilk, work extremely hard throughout the year to deliver the prime objectives of Glasgow Education Services, namely to raise standards continuously for all young people.

There is a clearly discernible trend in most Glasgow schools of improving standards. In Castle-milk High, in spite of the highest free meal entitlement in Glasgow and probably in Scotland, the school's performance compares very favourably with any similar school in Glasgow and beyond, but continuous improvement each year is becoming harder to achieve: a plateau appears to have been reached and I suspect that a similar plateau can be seen in many similar schools across the country.

It is to the credit of the Castle-milk headteacher and his staff that they are not prepared to accept this position on the plateau. They rightly conclude that pupils and parents in Castlemilk deserve better. They are happy to accept the Scottish Executive's challenge to schools designated as action plan schools that radica solutions must be tried, especially in the curriculum at the S3 S4 stage. This challenge suggests that there should be less emphasis on discrete subjects, less emphasis on rigid compartmentalised compulsion and instead more emphasis on core skills, personal and social education, preparation for a healthy adult life and for work, and more choice.

The proposals in Castlemilk are not an attempt to dumb down the curriculum. Students will be able to amass sufficient Standard grades to match their needs and aspirations: flexibility will be the norm. With stronger performance in Standard grade, pupils will better be able to attempt a range of courses at Higher level.

The school management has enunciated its aims, which the city council has endorsed. There has been consultation with staff, pupils, parents and employers. While unanimity was not achieved, the clear majority view was that the status quo could not be an option if standards were to improve. Success criteria, especially in terms of key criteria such as Standard grade and Higher results, attendance and leaver destinations, have been agreed.

I accept that the proposals may at present be radical but I honestly wonder if, given the changes now appearing before us, they will appear radical in a few years time. They certainly pose a challenge to the current order but they are not a cop-out by Castlemilk High School or by Glasgow.

Kenneth Corsar

Director, Education Services,

Glasgow City Council

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