What we need is evidence

6th April 2012 at 01:00

The Scottish government is making extraordinary claims that the results of the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy indicate improvements in children's numeracy, and that this can be put down to Curriculum for Excellence.

This sits awkwardly with a statement in the numeracy report indicating that, because the survey has been designed to take account of the new CfE, the results cannot be compared with previous tests when pupils followed other curricula. So what exactly is the evidence for this "improvement" and for the causal link with CfE?

It is possible, of course, that the claims are correct; but, if so, we do not yet have any supporting evidence for them or understanding of which features of this very new curriculum could so rapidly and unusually have achieved the changes.

The fundamental question is "why do things turn out the way they do?" It is too ingenuous, and also too misleading, to ascribe any (real or imagined) improvements to the introduction of a curriculum which has not been effectively evaluated.

The priority should be the enabling of high-quality research to be undertaken to look in a much more open and detailed way at what is going on in classrooms and move forward the explanations of how, within CfE, circumstances and behaviours can be channelled into more effective learning.

Sally Brown, professor emeritus of education, University of Stirling.

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