Last week, the Secret Teacher wrote about the problems that had led the CfE to be known as ‘Curriculum for Excrement’. This week, they’re looking at the positives, and how not taking advantage of those positives has led to ‘two very different types of schools in Scotland’.

Applied appropriately, the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) involves pupils developing skills at their own pace. One class consists of pupils at all different stages being given similar opportunities via tasks and activities to develop the same core skills. 

Schools really embracing CfE capitalise on the flexibility that the curriculum offers, allowing teachers to design learning to suit the individual and collective development needs of their class. Those schools embed frequent opportunities for interdisciplinary learning. 

The Herald:
In English, that might be pupils working as news reporters, thereby utilising and developing literacy skills, alongside calling on other knowledge and skills from other curricular areas like numeracy, IT, art and design, or graphic communications. An activity like news writing, which I’ve seen work well, allows pupils to develop literacy skills and skills for work in an environment that is more like the working world than a traditional classroom. 

Pupils in CfE-embracing schools are given many opportunities to have their voices heard, and to be involved in making decisions that affect them. 

Schools not embracing CfE look far more like traditional classrooms, with the teacher doing most of the talking and pupils all expected to do the same work at the same level, with very little account taken of individual learning styles, personal choice and previous learning. 

Read more: 
The Secret Teacher'So why do staffrooms up and down refer to it as Curriculum for Excrement?'

Those schools make little opportunity for pupils to engage in truly interdisciplinary learning activities. Very often, they limit almost all opportunities for pupils to use their voices and take control of their learning. 

That creates, in effect, two very different types of schools in Scotland.

The Herald:
In my career, I’ve had a mixture of both. Thankfully, most of my career has been spent in a school that was very much embracing CfE. I think, partly, since Covid, many schools have become quite reactionary and panicked. There are more and more examples of schools not really embracing CfE since Covid.

The biggest reform that schools are all facing at the moment is the Hayward Report, and every school’s been asked to give a response to the new big radical change that’s coming. It’s a massive change that teachers are trying to get their heads around.

In the Hayward Report, the emphasis is on extending CfE, and the methods and the values behind CfE into the senior phase, so that exams are not so much like traditional exams, pupils are very much working at their own pace and schools are certifying more qualifications than external exams. 

I’m still very much in favour of CfE. It’s about how you approach it. There definitely are flaws, but I think any system’s going to have flaws, and creases that needed to be ironed out that were imperfect to begin with. 

I do think CfE is the best of all possible worlds. 

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