I NOTE with interest today's Agenda article written by two respected researchers (“Why CfE is failing pupils and teachers, The Herald, February 20). However, your headline is a distortion of the piece.

Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), introduced almost two decades ago, is not failing pupils and teachers. First of all, CfE set out to produce a curriculum for the 3 to 18 age group, while the authors have looked only at Secondary 4 to 6. Not only that, they have focused mainly on examinations and on the impact of the narrowing of the curriculum, especially in schools in areas of social and economic disadvantage.

They asked a legitimate question, namely, why has a curriculum, widely regarded by educationists around the world, which set out to broaden the curriculum, apparently been narrowing? The answer they offer is hardly surprising. Schools serving pupils in disadvantaged areas are under pressure to do better in high-stakes examinations. But, surely, we have been here before? The exams debacle which emerged during the pandemic shone a light on the use of an unfair algorithm used historically by the Scottish Qualifications Agency (SQA).

Such was the furore, it seemed clear that this would never happen again and yet it is clear that the status quo ante is alive and well. The answer to the academics' question is simple: SQA is fanning the flames of curriculum narrowing. ‘Twas ever thus.

Since the publication of the CfE report in the mid 2000s, SQA and Education Scotland have interfered with its implementation. These two organisations are currently under review but their success over the years of taking control and interfering in radical reforms suggests to me that the reform process will not lead to the widening of participation of teachers in what happens in schools.

The elephant in the room for secondary schools is the “downward incrementalism” of high-stakes exams. They promote internal selection (setting) which in turn relegates pupils in disadvantaged areas to “bottom sets”. Let’s open up secondary schools to use inter-disciplinary learning and to broaden the curriculum, which in turn will necessitate a reform of the examination system.

Let me finish on a positive note. Early Years and Primary education is flourishing as a result of CfE. It is broadening its curriculum, promoting outdoor learning and using play in Primary 2 and beyond. This kind of approach to learning where all pupils work collaboratively is vital in closing the gap and ensuring that when they arrive in Early Years and move into primary, they are given a chance to fulfil their potential.
Professor Brian Boyd (a member of the group which produced Curriculum for Excellence), South Lanarkshire

Obligation must be on drivers

I REALLY must take issue with your correspondent Gordon Robinson (Letters, February 20), who bemoans the absence of speed advisory road signs on the A9 between Perth and Inverness.

Driving a motor vehicle on a public road is one of the most dangerous things most of us will ever do. As such it carries with it many serious responsibilities, just one of which is to be aware of the prevailing speed limit at any stage of your journey. The rules about speed limits are clearly set out in the Highway Code and are not as difficult as Mr Robinson makes out. For those who, in his words, are “not up to date with their Highway Code”, the solution lies in their own hands.

Mr Robinson also implies that drivers from abroad are disadvantaged by the absence of speed advisory signs. I disagree. Any overseas visitor driving here has an absolute responsibility to make themselves familiar with our speed limits, just as we have when driving overseas.

To make life easier, all decent satnavs display the speed limit all the time, don’t they?

Blaming the absence of repeater speed limit signs is irrelevant and unhelpful. For those ignorant of speed limits, I suggest the Highway Code as a useful starting point. Beyond that, the police drivers’ manual Roadcraft is invaluable. There are many refresher and advanced driving courses available. The trouble is that most drivers simply don’t care enough about their driving to do it properly.
Iain Stuart, Glasgow

The mine that killed a palace

YOUR photo of roadworks taking place at Bothwell Bridge in 1964 ("Digging in at Bothwell Bridge", The Herald, February 20) also captures, in the background, the image of a distant and hazy pit bing. The coal mine from which it grew, The Palace pit at Bothwellhaugh, has a certain deserved notoriety in that its underground workings contributed in no small way to the demise in the 1920s of one of the UK's, if not Europe's, most magnificent grand houses, namely Hamilton Palace.
Ian Sommerville, Largs

Up the Clyde without a paddle

AM I missing something? I can’t spot the paddle box on the large photo of the boat, purportedly The Waverley, shown in The Herald Magazine ("The Waverley Story", February 16).
Jon Cossar, Edinburgh

Just the ticket

After eight years of campaigning First Bus has agreed not to issue paper tickets with concession cards. No more litter, and money saved.

I’ll have to find another cause to fight for – bring it on.
Lesley P Lyon, Glasgow

Piggy, Dotty and Jelly Belly

I SEEM to have started a flood of reminiscences with my mention of "Big John" Henderson, my erstwhile Latin teacher (Letters, January 13, 14, 15, 16, 18 & 20). Here are a few more to tickle memories from other schools (and make us wonder what was their inspiration): Piggy White; Dotty McNab; Jelly Belly Morton; Bandit McKenzie (the original, not the cop in Quintin Jardine's stories); Mr McGrunt; Tiger Hamilton; Bernie Partridge; and, above them all, "The Dave". Now, as Big John would have said, "Simmer down, boys".
Brian Chrystal, Edinburgh

• FURTHER to Elizabeth Walker's letter (February 20), I had a similar experience in the late 1950s at the same school with the same Approach to Latin textbook but with a much younger teacher.

Weekly we had to stand up in turn going round the class translating from Latin to English. Unfortunately when my turn came it was "Agricola nudus in agro laborat", which I happily translated into the obvious "The naked farmer works in the field". Much to the amusement of my classmates, all female, the teacher said: "Come come now, lightly clad, surely lightly clad." Such was the nice clean fun in school in those days.
Kay Campbell, Milngavie


Letters should not exceed 500 words. We reserve the right to edit submissions.