TWO very remarkable phenomena have emerged in our secondary schools during the past 20 years, both widely canvassed in your columns. These are, firstly, the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) which is remarkable by virtue of setting out a curriculum for teaching and learning which does not provide any specification of what has to be taught and learned and, secondly, the contemporaneous breakdown of the school discipline which is essential for anything to be taught and learned (“‘Rising crisis’ of violence against teachers revealed”, The Herald, May 10).

While the contemporaneity of these phenomena does not necessarily prove a causal connection between them, it would seem reckless in the extreme to ignore the very real possibility that a curriculum devoid of specific goals and objectives is likely to promote a lack of purpose which leaves a significant proportion of pupils to their own feral devices as to what they wish to achieve at school and how they wish to treat the keepers of their seemingly pointless detention.

The CfE was revolutionary in its time but how bad do at least some schools need to become before the CfE is reviewed and teachers and pupils are provided with an agreed scheme of what has to be taught and learned at school and what minimum standards must be attained and what higher standards might be attained and there are recognised, worthwhile and specific targets of achievement in place that might distract pupils from other temptations of childhood?

Of course, a great deal of valuable and even inspiring teaching and learning does take place in our schools, which makes the apparently widespread occasions of the absence of these elements all the more challenging. I have read recently that specified levels of attainment achieved by pupils vary from school to school from about 90 per cent in the highest achieving schools to about 10% in the lowest. How can we live with such failure to our children and how likely is it that a standardised, informative curriculum might go some way towards closing that gap?

Michael Sheridan, Glasgow.

• I APPLAUD the students of Dalry School who recognise the value of the small, cosy learning environment where they can feel a sense of identity, ownership and pride ("Pupils at Scots school to strike over planned timetable changes", The Herald, May 13).

Today's trend in school-building is towards huge concrete monstrosities, where youngsters feel anonymous and lost, where respect for their environment and those with whom they share it is sorely lacking. Feelings of insecurity and frustration lead to ever more frequent outbreaks of violence, which are more and more difficult to control. Stress levels are high and staff take more time off sick.

We need to change our approach to teacher training and school-building. Let us have teacher training colleges where students must gain qualifications in teaching a variety of subjects up to GCE level, and school buildings small enough to feel homely, where teachers know their pupils and where trust can freely develop, and where discipline problems are the exception rather than the norm.

VN Jamieson, Monifieth.

READ MORE: Don't knock the basic education of old that did us proud

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Double standards on buffer zones

MY husband was unable to work on May 1. His place of employment, BAE Systems, better known as the Govan Shipyards, was blockaded by pro-Palestinian protestors. Masked protestors blocked the shipyard workers' entrances, with large signage implying the Govan men were guilty of Palestinian genocide.

Under our nation’s right to protest laws, little was done to disperse the protesters. Shipyard men were turned away, unable to work and branded guilty of genocide.

It is ironic that this situation occurred just one day after MSPs in Holyrood voted in favour of buffer zone legislation at stage 1. Proposed buffer zone legislation would criminalise peaceful pro-life gatherings near abortion facilities or hospitals, even going so far as to criminalise silent prayer. This means a person could be charged with an offence for silent, private thoughts inside their own mind. And why? Because activists are peddling the false notion that standing in silence near an abortion facility causes "harassment" or "intimidation".

Police Scotland has been very clear on this matter. Police Scotland confirmed no criminality had been identified at pro-life vigils in Scotland. And that buffer zones were unnecessary, because if criminality did occur, Scotland already has legislation in place to deal with it.

How can we be living in a Scotland where masked protestors physically blocking a man from his place of work, whilst brandishing signs conflating him with genocide, is acceptable, but 86-year-old Eileen, standing in complete silence with a pair or rosary beads near a hospital equates to "harassment" and should be a criminal offence?

The contradiction is glaring. At the heart of it, buffer zones are not about protecting anyone from alleged "harassment" or "intimidation"; if it was, there would have been outrage when hard-working Govan men were blocked from their place of work and shamed as genocidal.

The pursuit of buffer zones seems to be coming from a place of intolerance and disdain for pro-life people and outward symbols of Catholicism. That is something which abortion activists and MSPs seem determined to erase from Scottish society.

Veronica Crawford, Dumbarton.

The Herald: Neil OliverNeil Oliver (Image: Getty)

Lost names of Iona

FAR from exonerating Neil Oliver, Graeme Arnott (Letters, May 14) emphasises his misjudgment by stating that the consequences of the vaccine are unknown, when the fact is that close to 100% of them are indeed known and welcomed by the huge numbers who benefitted from them.

This reminded me of one of the presenter's earlier unfounded comments that Adomnan of Iona was a writer of fairy tales in his book on St Columba. In his next book, Adomnan pointed out that the term "Insula Iona" had been monastic slang for "mother house" and thus these so-called fairy tales were written when the mother house was at Fort Augustus rather than Iona. When Columba switched it to Iona, the Fort reverted to its then name, Achinbady, latinised by Adomnan to Hinba. That is why every one of the so called "lost place names of Iona" can still be found today in and around Fort Augustus.

George F Campbell, Glasgow.