'We are free to shape the curriculum,' say Scottish heads

But the teacher shortage is ‘constraining curriculum developments’ in most Scottish secondaries, research shows

‘We are free to shape the curriculum’, say Scottish heads

An investigation into whether Scottish headteachers have the freedom to tailor their school’s curriculum to the needs of their pupils has found that “almost all” heads believe they have that power.

The investigation is one of a series being carried out by inspection body, Education Scotland, to make sure that councils are making progress in devolving more power to headteachers – a key goal of the Scottish government.

However, the report also shows that in “a majority of secondary schools” difficulties in recruiting staff in some subjects was “constraining curriculum developments”.


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The teacher recruitment crisis was also resulting in headteachers covering classes, “which impacts on how well they can lead learning”, and preventing staff from participating in “a range of professional learning and dialogue”, the report says.

Empowering headteachers

It adds that heads were, in most cases, "well supported" by their local authorities and "empowered to work with staff, pupils, parents and wider partners to design learner pathways which best suit the needs of their local community".

However, the inspectors added that schools needed to get better at involving parents and pupils when designing the curriculum and to increase the range of vocational pathways they offer.

The inspectors also said that the level of professional learning for support staff in schools was too varied and they needed more opportunities “to participate in high-quality professional learning relevant to their local context”.

The report says: “Almost all schools are increasingly consulting pupils, parents and partners on the design of the curriculum. However, schools now need to include pupils, parents and partners much earlier in discussions about curriculum design to ensure they have increasing influence on developments. Schools should also provide more opportunities for pupils to be part of the evaluation of the impact of curriculum changes.”

It adds: “Most are taking account of Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) to deliver a curriculum which includes an understanding of the world of work and vocational pathways. However, there continues to be a need to increase progress in delivering DYW priorities and ensure that pupils and parents are aware of the range of vocational options and pathways available.”

The report – which saw inspectors engage with 43 primary, secondary and special schools from January to March – is the second of three “thematic inspections” being carried out by Education Scotland.

The Scottish government had planned to legislate to give more power to schools. However, the education secretary, John Swinney, shelved his education Bill in June, saying he would instead give councils a year to empower schools, without a change in the law.

Today's report, Thematic Inspection of Empowerment for Curriculum Leadership, is one of three designed to monitor council progress in taking forward the plans.

The first report about Scottish schools' “readiness for empowerment” also highlights the impact that the teacher shortage is having and says teacher recruitment is “a national issue”.

The final national thematic review on empowerment will be published later this year and will examine parent and pupil participation.

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