Time to be positive

I was unsurprised by the tentative nature of the conclusions of the Glasgow University study of the Critical Skills Programme in the Smithycroft Learning Community, which you reported last week.

But I was extremely surprised to read David Henderson's unqualified statement that it showed that "the CSP approach to teaching has yet to have a significant impact."

Over the past 18 months, there have been four formal evaluations of CSP, of which the Glasgow study is much the most limited in scope, focusing on two CSP teachers and 35 pupils in two classrooms in one primary school.

By contrast, the Exeter University study to which David Henderson referred involved 374 CSP teachers, 744 pupils and 40 classroom observations in most of Jersey's nursery, primary, secondary and special schools.

It concluded that "the critical skills programme in Jersey empowers teachers, enhances pupils' learning and is appropriate for its purpose of preparing children for adult life in the 21st century. This is pioneering work which deserves wide publicity." I cannot think of a more trenchant definition of "significant impact."

The remaining two evaluations - one in Jersey and one in Bristol - are equally positive in their conclusions. The Bristol study quotes an Ofsted report which links CSP with the development of 16 desirable qualities including positive relations, sense of responsibility, problem-solving, ICT skills, raising achievement, improving aspiration and risk-taking.

To my mind, the most important conclusion in the Glasgow report relates to the need for significant investment in CSP training and follow-up support.

For example, despite financial cutbacks, Jersey's education department has ring-fenced CSP training and support, to which it currently devotes 10 per cent of its school and college budget. It would hardly do that if it lacked evidence of significant impact.

Colin Weatherley

Critical Skills Programme manager (Scotland)

Gullane, East Lothian

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