THE front page headline (“Curriculum for Excellence is failing pupils, warns charity”, September 15) was more than a little misleading.

The piece by Mike Robinson (“Education system was failing… Covid crisis has made it worse”) was full of praise for Curriculum for Excellence, especially its “ambitious and radical” overhaul of the previous system. He was also correct to say that it was the first “holistic look” at the whole curriculum, ages three to 18, since the second World War.

The story of Curriculum for Excellence is not dissimilar to that of previous attempts to initiate curriculum change. Three things tend to happen.

First, the reform is taken over by central bodies – Her Majesty’s Inspectorate, Learning and Teaching Scotland (now merged into Education Scotland) and SQA. Second, funding allocated to local authorities and schools is never enough. Third, teachers do not get access to relevant and appropriate in-service training.

However, Mike Robinson focuses on the exam system and the number of hours pupils need to be ready to sit exams. Surely, if the recent SQA debacle teaches us anything it must be that we don’t let the tail wag the dog when it comes to exams and the curriculum.

I can’t be the only one who was dismayed to hear the Education Secretary pledge to ensure that all exams will take place in the “normal” way. Surely, at the very least we need to wait until the Priestley report appears at the end of this month?

Perhaps the main fault of the remit of the original Curriculum for Excellence working group was that exam reform was not included. We need an ambitious and radical reform of the exam and testing processes and we need it to be creative and imaginative.

Professor Brian Boyd,


EMERITUS Professor Henry Maitles (letters, September 17) suggests that schools teaching the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) should employ “new achievement measures to the curriculum – assignments, presentations, continuous assessments, investigations, extended essays, deeper learning experiences”.

However in 2016 a statement published by HM Chief Inspector of Education on re-focusing the CfE included things teachers should not be doing, such as “Avoid spending time on assessment activities which do not help to identify children’s and young people’s next steps in learning. Do not over- assess learners or assess the same content repeatedly in different ways. Do not create large portfolios of evidence”

I expect that this issue of an apparent lack of joined-up thinking in aspects of the Curriculum for Excellence must remain meantime on the agenda of every school.

Since our secondary school subject framework, although modified by post-McCrone faculty management structures, has remained virtually unchanged for many decades, it was hardly a surprise that there has been a difficulty delivering an almost wholly philosophical-based curriculum implementation process.

While Holyrood is preoccupied understandably with Covid concerns and irrationally with occasional indyref2 polls, I expect schools will have to continue with the status quo while waiting for a radical review.

By repackaging the old order we see, sadly, for all its noble intensions, CfE seemingly delivered too often in a form that desperate UK automotive firms resorted to in the 1960’s – badge engineering.

Bill Brown,


Covid’s schools impact

I WOULD suggest that far from educational standards going down as a result of the pandemic, attainment in Primary schools is likely to improve in the coming months.

Instead of pupils being in large classes, crowded together at tables with opportunities to distract each other and in many cases sitting with their backs to the teacher, they are now in smaller classes, at single desks, spaced out, facing the teacher. In all schools there will be a strong emphasis in order and compliance with rules.

I would imagine that because of these changes, classroom behaviour and attention will have improved and this will result in better learning.

I hope someone in Education Scotland is looking at these issues. Covid-19 may not be the disaster for learning that that some imagine.

Margaret McGregor, Aberdeen.