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New curriculum must not be allowed to fail

In 2010, ahead of the launch of the new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) , many teachers raised concerns about their preparedness for the reforms.

They were worried about a lack of clarity in the content of some of the courses; they were also anxious about the size of their workloads.

In the three years since the launch of CfE, these concerns have not gone away, despite extra help and additional funding from the Scottish Government. Indeed, with only a matter of months to go before pupils sit the first National 4 and National 5 exams, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) is still raising much the same worries as teaching unions were voicing three years ago.

Some of this anxiety is only natural at a time of great change - most professions are likely to raise concerns over major reforms - but it is also worth noting that support for the change has been widespread in the teaching sector, including from the EIS. This support has been for the central idea of CfE, which is still sound: that the education system should not be merely a machine that churns out pupils capable of passing exams but that it should foster broad-based learning that is likely to help pupils in the post-school world.

However, support for the principles of CfE does not preclude worry about its implementation and it on this that the EIS has been principally focusing. Teachers do not have enough time to adapt their teaching techniques, it says; the workloads are too great; and there is still confusion about the content of the courses with some teachers debating it even now, just months away from the exams.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which developed the exams, may have to take some of the blame for this. It says change always brings challenge, and that is true, but the SQA cannot fulfil its duties simply by delivering the material to schools according to its own timetable because doing so does not necessarily mean teachers have enough time to assimilate the material and adapt their lessons to the new exams.

This is essentially the central point the EIS is making in their criticisms and it is a valid one. It also means that - because delaying the exams is not now an option - the SQA will have to do all that it can in the coming months to provide any additional support that it is needed by teachers.

However, the fact that delay is not an option also means everyone concerned - the SQA, the EIS and teachers - will have to carry on and deliver the exams on time. The concerns raised by the EIS may be valid, but at this stage in the academic year there is a need for everyone involved to get on and ensure the exams are the best they can be. Their success will depend on the teachers and not only does this mean they must receive any extra help they need, they must also show a willingness to adapt.

In the longer term, the Scottish Government will have to keep a close watch on the process and make any necessary changes down the line. But right now, it is the pupils who should be uppermost in everyone's mind. The new curriculum is for their benefit and it cannot be allowed to fail them.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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