Curriculum for Excellence
As the 2009-2010 session draws to a close, I want to thank you for your hard work in supporting your pupils on their journey through their school year and in particular preparing those children and young people who are now in transition to primary school, to secondary school, or on to the world of further education, higher education and work.
Clearly much of my time in the six months since I came into office has been devoted to assisting with the continuing implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. Every school has been expected to introduce it in a planned and considered way and to be able to describe its approach and the progress being made in its school improvement plan. I now know from my visits to schools, and from listening to teachers and others, that nearly every teacher is working constructively and enthusiastically with his or her colleagues to take forward the implementation programme.
The start of the 2010-2011 session will mark a further important milestone in this programme, when every school will be expected to be fully engaged with Curriculum for Excellence. I would wish to make it clear that this does not mean that the expectation is that every aspect of Curriculum for Excellence will be in place - implementation is a process which builds on the best practice currently displayed by schools. In the distributed model that is Scottish education there will be, and should be, different priorities for every school. I have no doubt, however, that by the end of the next session, every school will be able to describe how its pupils are benefiting from teaching and learning based on the experiences and outcomes set out for all the curriculum areas.
Curriculum for Excellence is not being introduced for change's sake. It goes without saying that Scottish education needs to evolve if we are to provide children and young people with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in the 21st century and to ensure that Scotland retains its international reputation for excellence in education and learning.
When the Scottish Parliament was established, there was a remarkable professional and political consensus that, despite its strengths, the Scottish education system had become over-assessed, too centralised and insufficiently deep. Aspects of learning were not joined up sufficiently to allow us to move forward in terms of international comparisons or domestic assessment.
Curriculum for Excellence was devised to address all these issues. It is based on well-established knowledge and a clear understanding of how children learn and of how to prepare them to achieve their full potential. It gives every child a coherent single curriculum which will take them on a journey from pre-school to primary school, secondary school, college and ultimately to a whole range of positive destinations.
As a result of the changes which you are leading, I believe that Curriculum for Excellence will deliver the connected, balanced and flexible approach which Scotland's children need. I am confident that Curriculum for Excellence will free you to teach and make teaching more enjoyable for those who do it, and more enjoyable for those who benefit from it.
I recognise this is a demanding and significant agenda for you. I also acknowledge that my duty and the duty on all of us - in Government and elsewhere - is to look actively at how we can best take forward Curriculum for Excellence and, in particular, support teachers to do so. The 10-point plan which I announced on 30 March goes, I hope, a long way in that regard. A letter sent to headteachers recently provides you with a note of progress of this plan, but of course more could be done and I am keen to hear your ideas.
Of course, I recognise the concerns expressed by some of you and your representatives and I intend to continue the dialogue which I have with you and them about how we achieve effective implementation. In particular, I have considered carefully the request for more time for teachers. I am pleased to tell you that I have agreed to another extra in-service day between August and December 2010. Of course I want to ensure that this additional time will be used effectively. I have therefore asked Local Authority Directors of Education to work with HMIE and other partners to use this day to address the specific issues which you and your school are prioritising over the next academic year.
In addition, I am pleased to confirm that the 5-14 National Assessment Bank (NAB) will be switched off at the end of the summer term. You will be aware that I have identified an additional £3 million to support the introduction of the new assessment approaches in schools. I expect CoSLA to write to every local authority with detail of its allocation later this month. In September you will have access to the National Assessment Resource which will further support your development and understanding of these new approaches.
Ultimately, we need to remember that Curriculum for Excellence is about method much more than content. The vast majority of teachers are already using the skills and the knowledge that are needed to make Curriculum for Excellence a success for every young person. I understand the specific concerns raised about qualifications but there is a clear timetable for examination information and materials, with every milestone achieved so far. I can assure the secondary sector in particular that over the next few months much more information will be made available to you, in plenty of time to prepare for the introduction of the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence. And as Curriculum for Excellence will rely on strong subject knowledge and subject specialists, I have asked HMIE to use some of its support time to help subject teachers, who will also be assisted by material coming from the 'excellence groups' later this year.
I am listening carefully to a wide range of advice, including that of the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board, which has recommended adhering to the timetable for implementation but which is also involved in strengthening quality assurance and monitoring progress; however, I am also very mindful of the need to understand the experiences of classroom teachers as this work continues. That I will always try to do.
I am sure you are in no doubt about my own personal commitment to, and enthusiasm for, Curriculum for Excellence. Please also accept that the Scottish Government is grateful for the excellent work that is being done by all teachers to move Scottish education forward.
If you would like to share your views on these matters or on anything else to do with education you can use the new Engage for Education website.
This update is provided on behalf of the Scottish Government by Learning and Teaching Scotland.