A Valentine's message for Scottish Education

Reignite the passion - bring on CfE 2

Henry Hepburn's editorial in TESS 8 February 2019 is a must read. It reminded me of the excitement and enthusiasm for Curriculum for Excellence in my school. We embraced the freedom it presented and sought “opportunities for adventure”.

We developed the ‘away day’ where staff were freed from the routine of the day to explore new ideas and be refreshed.

We developed professional learning so we could learn from each other – killed off the idea that CPD is a course you ‘go to’ or something ‘done to you’.

Staff took on ‘champion’ roles (without additional salary but with additional time during the pupil day)

Active literacy and cooperative learning were embedded in lessons

We developed a system of review – peer to peer involvement to share learning

We ripped up the traditional timetable and built in longer slots for collaborative lesson planning and delivery.

We embraced new courses to ensure equality of access for all. Vocational courses plus inserts into the more traditional syllabus to tap into the potential in each pupil. If I listed these today, they would seem ‘old hat’ but in the mid noughties they were ground breaking.

Pupils and partners became part and parcel of our decision-making processes: from the weekly consultative group meeting to the annual improvement planning and review, together with analysis and disbursement of development funds

And this is only what I can remember 12 years on! Initiatives were not top down but involved teachers, pupils and partners. No ideas were dismissed out of hand but were researched and tested out. We took risks; we were pragmatic; we were change radicals.

All of this was underpinned by a “moral purpose and a desire for social justice that are the defining features of Scottish education” Henry Hepburn TESS 08/02/2019

So where did it go awry? A number of external and unforeseen factors got in the way – the greatest of which is probably austerity and the squeeze on the public purse, including teachers’ pay. The education system is also to blame for getting bogged down in structures, in guidance notes, in a plethora of changing expectations and reluctance to move away from the ‘Higher’ as the gold standard. It all got too complicated and hidebound in bureaucracy.

So let’s take up the challenge and return to the high ideals that sparked the 2002 ‘national conversation’ and reignite the passion and enthusiasm engendered then. This time let’s not lose sight of the importance of keeping teachers at the heart of the discussion and the implementation. Don’t do to them but do with them.