'Three subjects won't go into one'

25th May 2001 at 01:00
THERE are fears that the quality of teaching may suffer if secondary schools are forced to move to a system in which one teacher teaches all three social subjects in first and second year.

This is the model embedded in the primary curriculum through environmental studies, which is at the cutting edge of the debate about how pupils should progress through the later stages of the 5-14 curriculum.

A survey by the social studies department at Strathclyde University, reported to a conference at Jordanhill last week, showed that most secondaries in Scotland operate a rotation format for history, geography and modern studies. Pupils study each discipline for a fixed number of weeks and some teachers are concerned about being pressured to switch.

The findings are based on responses to date from 409 social studies departments in 173 schools. Sixty-four per cent of schools operated a rotation system in first year, 17 per cent use the discrete method where different teachers take each of the disciplines, 13 per cent use the single-teacher format in which the subjects are taught separately and 5 per cent have a fully integrated social studies course taught by one member of staff.

In second year, the figures ae, respectively, 54 per cent, 34 per cent, 1 per cent and 2 per cent.

There is a clear trend away from set periods per week to rotation, with 21 schools "expecting" to do this, and none expecting to move to set periods. Sixteen expressed fears about moving to a single teacher system and three "thought" they would be changing to an integrated course.

Comments on the trend ranged from the moderate to the outraged:

* "It is just a way of diluting the influence of the separate subjects."

* "What is the point of the General Teaching Council if we are all to teach subjects we have no experience in?" * "Totally unacceptable. The quality of delivery will suffer."

* "Appalling. I thought we were trying to raise achievement."

Teachers in favour of the single-teacher model cited an improvement in pupil-teacher relations and "easier management and cohesion".

Henry Maitles, head of modern studies at Strathclyde, said: "Single-teacher delivery in S1 and S2 could lead to reduced enthusiasm among staff and, consequently, reduced quality of teaching and learning. Departments using rotation feel that it has the benefits of fewer teachers and greater subject knowledge."

Leader, page 22

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