The Secret Teacher continues their analysis of CfE by looking at the Hayward reforms.

In effect, the big thing happening in Secondary education in Scotland is that Curriculum for Excellence is being continued or extended, from its current scope covering Early Years/nursery, the whole of Primary, and through to the end of S3.  

What’s termed the Senior Phase (S4-6) experience, and how we award formal qualifications, is now becoming more aligned with the (CfE) principles, assessment methods and structures that have been in place for younger pupils for more than twenty years now.

The revamped SQA, whatever that becomes (perhaps ‘Qualifications Scotland’) will deliver final attainment to Scottish senior pupils in a new way. With more CfE will likely come less subject boundaries, and definitely more pupil choice and personalisation. 

The Herald:
Primary schools and CfE were always a better match and indeed CfE was implemented there first, before secondaries tried to follow suit a few years later. In its seeking to blur subject boundaries, for example, CfE was a more organic and natural fit for primary schools, where rigid subject boundaries don’t really exist as a formal structure. 

Whereas, at secondary, rigid subject boundaries – twenty years on – is still how we organise pupils’ day via their timetables. In two decades, two types of Scottish secondary school have emerged: authentic CfE schools; and CfE-wannabes, or CfE-sceptics, who pretend (not very convincingly) to embrace and adopt the pupil-centred, rights-based curriculum that CfE is. 

This latest big thing (in the world of high schools at least) is the Hayward reforms, which are rooted in what Professor Hayward describes as “learner frustration” at having “little say in decisions being taken about qualifications that impact them”. The resulting Hayward Report is therefore entitled ‘It’s Our Future’. 

I think, in authentic CfE schools, these reforms will be a welcome and a natural next step, and these school communities will experience a relatively simple and easy (if inevitably long) road to implementing Hayward’s Calls to Action. 

The Herald:
In those other types of schools, however, these reforms are being met with disdain. Pure and simple. And these school communities, I think, are facing the uncertainties of a very long and very rocky road that will likely see many attempts to undermine Hayward’s Calls to Action to better involve and empower senior pupils. 

In one school, for example, staff were told about Hayward on return to school in August and, almost in the same breath, senior leaders removed pupil agency by imposing a new rule that seniors are no longer able to decide for themselves which courses they sit and don’t sit. Similarly, staff are discouraged from allowing pupils to access their component marks for awards they’ve already gained. 

It’s fairly common for pupils to take more subjects than perhaps they need for university or college entrance to keep their options as open as possible. But, as they come closer to that transition out of school, they often make very sensible and reasoned choices to drop one subject in order to focus more time on those they absolutely require to get to their next step.

Read more:

The Secret Teacher'Curriculum for Excellence is flawed... but it's better to embrace it'

It’s also common for pupils, especially hard-working and highly driven, highly-motivated ones to ask for their components (which they don’t get a breakdown of alongside final grades on their exam certificate) from teachers, in order to target set more effectively. 

Taking all of this pupil agency away seems radically out of touch with Hayward’s focus, with CfE’s focus and with where I see modern Scotland being right now.  

Encouraging opportunities for all pupils – but especially those so close to living their (young adult) lives independently – to take their own decisions, with appropriate supports in place, is part of every school and every teacher’s responsibility.  

Some schools just don’t get that. 

I don’t know if it’s okay with the Scottish Government for schools, or local education authorities to allow schools to entirely ignore the Hayward’s Report’s findings and what seem to me to be the spirit and shared goals of the wider country. Maybe so?

Sign up for The Secret Teacher newsletter and receive a weekly update inside the staff room. You'll also get features like The Staff Room, Tweet of the Week, Quote of the Week and Today's Lesson included.

👉 Click to sign up