We aim to improve, rather than excel

23rd April 2010 at 01:00

So, the Education Secretary has decided, literacy and numeracy are to be assessed as units within English and maths courses. Development events will be held for heads. Parents are to be given a say at national management levels, local authorities given an "extra" pound;3 million for quality assurance.

Are not literacy and numeracy supposed to be assessed through the 5-14 development programme, then confirmed and certificated through English and maths courses from S3 onwards?

Although potentially clunky in operation, wasn't the point of assessing across the curriculum not supposed to have been to confirm to learners and teachers that these two core skills were universal and the responsibility of all professionals to develop?

Don't heads already benefit from local, regional and national events to share good practice? Can't parents, through the school's parents' forum and council, already significantly influence school improvement? (A parent sitting on the management board will be a welcome voice, but will it carry any weight?) And as for the extra pound;3 million, is this to be ring-fenced or subject to council priorities? If it is to be ring-fenced, is this the death knell of the concordat? Plus ca change.

And we thought this was to be the most radical change in Scottish education in a generation. These announcements only serve to prove that "Curriculum for Excellence" is a misnomer. Let us remember that education is, and always should be, about the learner. Those who initially sat around the CfE management table must have known that educational excellence does not result from implementing a new curriculum. They surely knew education is fundamentally not about excellence but improvement - sometimes fast, sometimes justifiably slow.

Learning at school is driven by high-quality teaching within a purposeful and supportive ethos. Yes, the curriculum needs to provide a framework, but is it essentially what education is about? Given all of this, the title "Curriculum for Excellence" seems ever more absurd. It would not be passed by the Advertising Standards Authority.

A new title? What about "Learning to Improve"? We could all do with a bit of that.

John Wilson, Adambrae Parks, Livingston.

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