More coherent planning between primary 6 and secondary 2 and fewer subjects in the first two years of secondary are two key recommendations from a review group of the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum, likely to be approved by the council at its meeting today (Friday).
This would be in line with the Education Minister's forthcoming offensive on standards. Brian Wilson's concern over attainment in English, maths and science is likely to be reflected in renewed targeting of the upper 5-14 stages. This will switch the education focus from the senior school where Higher Still has dominated the agenda.
The Secretary of State will shortly receive a draft review of the early secondary years, along with revised curriculum guidelines. A broader investigation into the first two years of secondary is being carried out by HMI and will be ready within weeks. Councils are mounting a third investigation.
The TES Scotland understands the curriculum council will avoid prescription but re-stress the six areas of the 5-14 curriculum and expect secondaries to emulate the flexibility of primary practice. A range of curricular experiences will be highlighted without tying them to individual subjects. Secondaries will then devise blocks and themes.
Among other strategies, the Inspectorate is expected to support a rotational system in secondaries to allow subjects to be taught in blocks over a period of weeks. Within environmental studies, pupils might do half a term each of history, geography or modern studies. The system restricts the number of teachers in front of pupils - a major complaint - conserves resources and allows teachers a better understanding of their pupils.
Mr Wilson will use the emerging consensus on the need for reform in the early secondary years to carry the teaching profession with him. Full consultation is expected.
Mike Baughan, headteacher of Webster's High, Kirriemuir, who has been seconded to the curriculum council to rewrite the curriculum guidelines, said the talk over the past 25 years had been of integrative approaches in social subjects but this was "still a minority sport".
A study by a secondary head had identified a first-year pupil who in primary 7 had one teacher and two visiting specialists. Mr Baughan stated: "The same boy had 15 different teachers in first year. The head then selected a geography teacher, looked at the teacher's timetable and the number of different classes that teacher taught during the week. Ten different classes. Five first and second-year classes and 130 pupils in all. The conclusion is fairly self-evident: the conditions do not exist in first and second year for teachers to have the sustained contact with pupils that is necessary to develop an adequate knowledge of an individual pupil."
Mr Baughan said the tradition of subject choice at the end of second year should be re-examined since the majority of pupils stay on after fourth year. Choice of subjects and courses dated from an era when most left at 16. "We should be talking about a core curriculum 4-16, and we are not far off it," he said.
Heads' Forum, TES 2, page 24