Time for a values-based approach
The Education Secretary believes the new curriculum could have warded off the boardroom behaviour which plunged the world into economic crisis.
Fiona Hyslop has called on schools to take advantage of the new curriculum to instil a sense of values in pupils. In an upbeat speech to a conference in Edinburgh during which she announced the timetable for the reforms (see opposite), she declared: "The strength of A Curriculum for Excellence is that it is values-based. The need for a return to a values- based society and world in general has been put into stark relief by recent economic events.
"Founding or re-founding our children's education on a values-based approach could not have come at a better point in our history."
At the conference, organised by the Educational Institute of Scotland for its head and depute members, she acknowledged that the economic crisis "has created serious financial pressures for councils", but insisted "there are signs that councils have acted to protect education budgets, and in some cases to actually enhance them".
Ms Hyslop said pound;23 billion would be going into local government this financial year and next, a record amount and an increasing share of the central government budget. Cross-examined, she said councils had resources to maintain teacher numbers at 2007 levels; they were also allowed to retain their efficiency savings for the first time and not to use these to reduce teacher numbers.
In a strong defence of the Government's proposals, she endorsed:
- "a robust assessment system based on clear nationally-agreed benchmarks," particularly in developing literacy and numeracy skills, (but) "this does not mean an external exam in P7";
- "switching off" the national assessment bank of 5-14 test items only when a replacement system is in place, to avoid any vacuum as happened in England after the scrapping of Sats tests;
- assessment which does not "force children through levels as fast as possible for the sake of meeting targets if that means learning is narrowly focused and not secure".
Ms Hyslop issued a clarion call to teachers to get behind ACfE, which was "as much about culture change as it was about curriculum content".
She added: "As a government, we are changing the culture from dependence on central direction to independence and trust in professional judgment. That requires all of us to work collaboratively. If we want our children to become confident individuals, then they must see that confidence demonstrated by teachers."
Ms Hyslop said she wanted to see trust in teachers reflected in local authority attitudes,revealing that she had told a recent conference of council chief executives that "headteachers should be seen, and treated and responded to, as part of senior management within councils".
For full speech: www.tes.co.ukhyslop
`2009 - A WATERSHED YEAR FOR SCOTTISH EDUCATION'
"It is not just a badge of honour to do well in international studies. The quality of our education system is a key factor when companies are making decisions about inward investment. They look at what's happening in our universities, but they also look at the results from studies such as Pisa and Timss."
- Graham Donaldson, senior chief inspector
"We need a new national programme for leadership in Scotland . The Scottish Qualification for Headship does develop leadership skills, but does it prepare people to be courageous, creative, take risks, have vision?"
- Tony Finn, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland
"Leadership should come from every teacher in every school, from the headteacher to the newly-qualified teacher."
- Fiona Hyslop, Education Secretary
"We need to guard against the risk of `lionising' leadership as a smokescreen for the dumping of responsibilities on to the individual school or its leader . Distributed leadership should provide the chance for all teachers to taste leadership activity and skills . it should help develop the pool of next generation leaders."
- Ronnie Smith, EIS general secretary
"Assessment is potentially the rock on which SS ACfE might founder."
- Larry Flanagan, EIS education convener
"The new national assessment resource will support flexibility and personalisation in assessment (not a testNAB) . teachers' own internal assessments will populate the NAR."
- Gill Stewart, Scottish Qualifications Authority
On the curriculum
"Key issue for teachers: `can we trust the alleged key players to deliver what we see ACfE as being?'"
- Larry Flanagan
On class sizes
"Cutting class sizes is only valid if it improves teaching and learning . and early intervention is strongly backed by bodies like the police and council chief executives because it is not just an educational issue, in the same way that free meals for P1-3 pupils is a health issue."
- Fiona Hyslop
On the future
"2009 will be a watershed year for Scottish education."
- Graham Donaldson
The SNP Government has 2:1 backing for its controversial plans to introduce literacy and numeracy tests for secondary pupils. But three- quarters of those who replied to the consultation on the "next generation" qualifications opposed the suggested names of General and Advanced General awards to replace Standard and Intermediate grades.
These are the main conclusions of an analysis of the 1,807 responses to the consultation, carried out by Ipsos MORI Scotland. It is difficult to gauge how representative they are, since 1,314 were from secondaries. Returns also came from 66 parents or parent groups and from 25 employers or employer groups.
There were much narrower margins of support for other parts of the package, such as the time taken over Higher courses, bypassing lower- level qualifications by abler pupils and the proportion of external testing and school assessment in the literacy and numeracy exams.
The survey did not cover the proposed introduction of literacy and numeracy testing at primary, which was the result of a later vote in Parliament and was not included in the consultative document.
The findings showed that:
- 76 per cent were in favour of up-dating qualifications at Access, Higher and Advanced Higher as a "logical" step to support the new curriculum, though just over half had caveats or concerns; 20 per cent were opposed because plans were "vague, incoherent or flawed".
- responses to replace Standard grade Credit and General awards with a new qualification stressed the need for progression between levels - and articulation with Highers in particular; the option of presentation at two levels as in Standard grade; an equivalent of Foundation level at Standard grade; external examinations, in order to ensure consistency and credibility; the practical and investigative aspects of courses to be retained.
- 51 per cent agree with the proposal to grade units A-C rather than passfail as it will recognise those who do well, give pupils useful feedback and provide better evidence than the current "pass" when it comes to appeals; 43 per cent who disagreed cited teacher workload implications.
- 51 per cent did not want graded units to count towards the final award since it might demotivate pupils who would not study as hard towards the final because they knew they were going to pass well, and pupils who achieved low scores would not study as chances of obtaining a higher grade were diminished; 40 per cent were supportive, as it would take into account pupils' achievements throughout a course and take units more seriously.
- 71 per cent disagreed with the proposed names of General and Advanced General awards to replace Standard and Intermediate grades, as they were "uninspiring" and "meaningless"; 21 per cent agreed.
- 61 per cent favoured literacy and numeracy tests at SCQF levels 3-5; 30 per cent disagreed on the basis that pupils should have these skills already and that it would add to the assessment burden. There was a narrower majority - 49 per cent against 42 per cent - in favour of an external exam; 49 per cent believed more weight should be given to external than internal assessment so the new awards would be seen as "credible qualifications"; 49 per cent supported the new exams to be taken at the end of S3, as S4 would be too late.
- 43 per cent agreed with the proposal to allow the study of Highers and Advanced Highers over 12 months, 18 months and two years because it would allow greater depth of learning; 36 per cent disagreed on practical grounds such as time-tabling and inconsistencies which would result across Scotland; 16 per cent backed study over 12 months and two years, but not 18 months.
- 69 per cent disagreed with a winter diet of exams as it would detract from teaching and add to the assessment burden; 24 per cent agreed, as it would give pupils more options, particularly Christmas-leavers.
- 52 per cent agreed that abler pupils should be allowed to bypass qualifications at lower levels and start Higher courses in S4 to motivate them and increase teaching time; 43 per cent disagreed, as pupils would benefit from the earlier exam practice and a safety net needed to guard against lack of success later on.
- 78 per cent opposed the new curriculum being introduced from the 2009-10 session, which the Education Secretary abandoned last October when she announced a year's delay, with the new qualifications introduced from 2013-14.
Full report: www.tes.co.ukresearch
March 30: final curriculum experiences and outcomes published on the website (www.ltscotland.org.ukcurriculumforexcellence)
May 25: hard copies and interactive web versions available to teachers
June onwards: conclusions from "testing the framework" events issued, including suggestions for curriculum management and "innovative ideas" on organising time for teaching
March: 18 seminars throughout the country will be staged by Learning and Teaching Scotland
Summer: assessment framework of support will be published
Before end of this school session: decisions announced on the future shape of the qualifications system.