Call for professional perspective on CfE
Times are hard and they are about to get more difficult due to cuts in public expenditure and these will undoubtedly have a negative impact on education. However, let’s not forget much of what we do is about attitudes and methodology and professionalism.
I am becoming increasingly frustrated when some professionals are using this to mask their ongoing antipathy towards Curriculum for Excellence.
The next time I hear the need for resources and materials I will again be asking the question - are there connections I am unaware of between sections of the education establishment and national couriers and hauliers.
I well remember the implementation of Standard Grade and Higher Still and nothing happened until the vanloads of teaching and learning materials arrived in schools by the tonne.
I cannot be the only one hankering after the day when the arrangements document for the examinations could be fitted into your back pocket. Teachers had professional confidence and skill to use this outline to develop appropriate teaching, learning and assessment materials to suit the needs of their pupils while meeting the requirements of the external examining body.
For decades we have moaned that the “tail wagged the dog” in Scottish education and Curriculum for Excellence gives us the opportunity to regain control of teaching and learning and shape the examination processes and structures. Yes we need the finer points of senior phase ironed out, we need to determine how senior phase will articulate with the broad and general education from 3 – 15 and we need a look very soon at exemplar examinations.
We need to take a professional perspective. We have been talking Curriculum for Excellence since the summer of 2005. We have had years of engagement in which we have already undertaken a great deal of work at school, local and national level in devising a curriculum which enables young people to develop the four capacities. We have made our preparations to promote and adopt the necessary pedagogical changes and clearly define entitlements for children and young people.
This approach might not have been uniform across all schools and local authorities in the country but it is not a vanload of resources and teaching materials that we need. In my local authority and in my school we have worked on curriculum design, we have been proactive in developing the curriculum, planning programmes and courses and improving our already excellent transition programmes. We have devoted resources to improved and refreshed teaching and learning strategies to develop skills; strategies such as active learning, restorative practices, cooperative learning and the development of Teacher Learning Communities.
At school level, staff are confident and were ready to implement our agreed S1 curriculum in August 2010. We have planned, prepared and resourced the development of courses in each of the 8 curricular areas. We have embraced the necessary pedagogical change. We have planned opportunities and accreditation for wider achievement. We have piloted and now embedded approaches to connected, interdisciplinary learning in S1 – S3 and personal support from S1 to S6. We have discussed and agreed our approaches to meet the principles of progression and personalisation and choice from S1 to S3.
Now we are about to shift our focus and devote time, energy and resources to discussion of appropriate assessment and reporting. Our teachers are professional and skilled in taking the key ideas forward. We do now need SQA to give us the details of the requirements of the external examinations but we are confident that we can continue to develop appropriate approaches to suit the needs of our pupils while meeting these requirements by 2014.
So why are there differences in levels of preparedness across the country?
The answer cannot solely be a workload and/or a resourcing issue. Is it a major leadership issue? It is the difference between taking ownership and taking the initiative rather than waiting for the delivery vans. Is it indicative of a struggle between a future with embedded professional autonomy and a past where the external examination body dictates what we teach and how we teach it.
Each year in our school we adopt some words of wisdom from our patron to inspire and support us. The last few sessions we chose the following which now seems apposite.
“Nothing would be done at all if one waited until one could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.”
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman 1801-1890
Isabelle Boyd, Headteacher, Cardinal Newman High School
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