Confirmation that teachers have become more confident in handling the 5-14 programme comes in a report from the Scottish Council for Research in Education which states that in the first four years "there was a relatively high degree of satisfaction with the way change had been managed in schools, among both headteachers and their staff".
Heather Malcolm and Michel Byrne, the authors of the report, state that the simultaneous introduction of school development plans allowed headteachers to pace the rate of implementation and set priorities.
One reported: "I feel more in control of implementation, having previously felt overwhelmed. If anyone wants something not in the plan, I can now show them and ask what should be removed to make way for new initiatives."
But there were complaints that local authorities and inspectors were asking heads to go too fast. The researchers were told: "We find that national and regional priorities are thrown at us willy-nilly with pressure to address these as well, usually within impossible time limits. It therefore takes a great deal of resolve to stick to the priorities identified at school level."
Implementation was applied across clusters of schools in many cases and heads felt that individual circumstances were not taken into account.
Primary schools were asked about the influence of 5-14 on liaison with other sectors. Many reported increased contact with nursery schools. The extent and value of links with secondaries varied greatly. Some primaries thought that secondaries were reluctant to become involved. Others found that visits by secondary teachers made them more appreciative of primary staff skills.
The guidelines in language and mathematics in the first years of the programme affected the content of the curriculum more than teaching methodology, the report finds. Around half of the heads and class teachers interviewed believed that pupils were benefiting from a broader and more consistent range of learning experiences and from the new emphasis on oral and problem-solving skills.
The main obstacle to change, heads said, was lack of time for discussion with staff, for drawing up school policies, for working groups to meet and for staff development.
The pace rather than the nature of 5-14 demands caused most concern, another study concludes. Wynne Harlen, director of the council, has drawn together the findings of all the Government-sponsored evaluation studies co-ordinated by the council.
A second round of evaluations on a more limited scale continues until 1997.
5-14 in the Primary School: the first four years. By Heather Malcolm and Michel Byrne. SCRE Pounds 11.50. Four Years of Change in Education 5-14. By Wynne Harlen. SCRE Pounds 5.