The curriculum council's draft guidelines endorse HMI's view that significant changes are needed in the first two years of secondary if pupils' progress is to avoid hitting the buffers.
There are familiar calls for the learning momentum not to slacken, for an end to any "fresh start" in S1 by taking previous attainment in primary into account, for good primary-secondary liaison and for a reduction in the number of teachers facing pupils in early secondary.
"Pupils should enter S1S2 with a sense of excitement, anticipation and continued challenge," the document states. The council believes pupils currently suffer a fragmented curriculum with insufficient connections made between subjects leading to a disjointed experience.
"It is, first of all, essential that all members of staff have a broad understanding of the totality of the curriculum and of the linkages between and among subjects," the guidelines state. "Opportunities can be created in course planning for teachers and departments to discuss linkage between and among areas of the curriculum and subjects."
The document adds that "providing pupils with sustained contact with a relatively small number of teachers is essential if teachers are to establish a sound relationship with each pupil and become familiar with individual learning styles".
Schools are told they should allocate time to the five curricular areas in S1 and S2 rather than on a subject basis. The minimum core curriculum time over two years is proposed as 30 per cent for the newly named science, technology and society, 20 per cent for language, 15 per cent for the expressive arts and physical education, 10 per cent for maths and 5 per cent for religious and moral education.
The remaining 20 per cent for school-directed activities "must not be viewed as an encouragement to allow the proliferation of courses in S1 and S2". There must be restrictions on the number of subjects taught in these years, the guidelines advise, but they do not spell out which ones should give way.