When excellence turns weedkiller in learning for life

18th April 2008 at 01:00
Niall MacKinnon's piece, "Perils of permanent perfection" (TESS, March 21), is the second intelligent analysis I have read about A Curriculum for Excellence. The first was the comment by Brian Cooklin, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, that "if it's running down your leg, it's a curriculum for excellence".

Hitherto, nobody has questioned excellence as "a good thing" in education. Applied to an arithmetic or spelling test, it is a limited, if possibly desirable, target. Applied to the curriculum, teachers or learners, it defeats its own ends. Imposed by HMIE, it may well be labelled a curriculum for disappointment, failure and negativity; sloshing weedkiller over a garden may get rid of the odd dandelion, but it will hardly encourage growth.

Maybe it is time to bin ACfE. It has served its purpose for those wanting out of the classroom. We should adopt instead Niall MacKinnon's suggestion of A Curriculum for Life, which has the best and widest aspirations and the least of HMIE's narrow audit.

But a word of caution: he might share the fate of another great teacher 2,000 years ago whose curriculum for life also failed to meet the approval of HMIE (Galilee division).

H Wilson, Mallaig High.

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