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20th November 2009 at 00:00
Little improvement in teaching threatens success of new curriculum, inspectors claim

The 2001 national teachers' agreement has not led to the improvements in teaching which were promised as a result of better pay and conditions, and thus threatens the successful implementation of A Curriculum for Excellence.

That is the stark warning from senior chief inspector of education Graham Donaldson, in a report issued by HMIE this week. As implementation moves from individual initiatives to universal adoption of the new curriculum, he cautions: "There is a risk that, in the face of this demanding agenda and a failure to use available resources to the full, changes may be superficial."

The report, Learning Together: Improving Teaching, Improving Learning, suggests that a renewed emphasis on continuing professional development could hold the key to CfE reaching its full potential, along with contributions from chartered teachers, leadership development and ICT.

Mr Donaldson adds: "We have found a great deal of encouraging practice, but this is not in evidence consistently across all schools and education authorities, and not all parts of the agenda are yet being systematically addressed.

"Most importantly, there is not yet a clear enough link between these activities and improvements in children's and young people's learning."

The report also makes a virtue of necessity, stating that "against a background of budget pressures", many schools were turning to in-house and self-directed CPD, particularly involving the use of ICT. The formation of professional learning communities was also better tailored to the learning needs of individual teachers and support staff, and could be more cost- efficient and effective, the report states.

Collegiate working - a central aim of the teachers' agreement - has increased in recent years, but is not evident in all schools, it found.

Likewise, although a few education authorities have created networks to support chartered teachers, this was not universal practice. Overall, authorities had yet to systematically audit and develop the wider contribution which chartered teachers could make, most notably as key players in the realisation of CfE.

It was hoped that the revised Standard for Chartered Teacher would address some of these issues by clarifying the role of CTs.

The Educational Institute of Scotland welcomed the emphasis given in the report to the importance of CPD and the key role of chartered teachers.

But Ronnie Smith, EIS general secretary, warned: "In these days of financial pressures and budget cuts, all of this good work and progress to date could go to waste if the Scottish Government and local authorities do not commit to ensuring adequate levels of education funding.

"Cuts in teacher numbers and diminishing training budgets are already stretching our schools and teachers to the limit, and this must be addressed if the current progress on the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence is to be maintained."

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