Scottish Conservatives call for ‘reset’ of Curriculum for Excellence


The Scottish Conservatives are calling for significant changes to the programme that underpins Scottish education.

The party said Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) needed to be "reset".

It said the scheme's principles were sound but that improvements were needed.

The Scottish government said CfE provided young people with "a well-rounded education" and was "broadly endorsed in Scotland".

Scotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, said the biggest problems with CfE were staff and resources.

In a newly-published paper, the Conservatives made five key recommendations to improve the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence.

These were:

  • Improve clarity, accountability and measurement – so parents, teachers and young people know exactly what CfE is expected to deliver
  • Address the teacher shortage crisis by opening up new routes into the classroom and reform teacher training to boost standards
  • Slash the excessive guidance and paperwork issued to teachers to ensure that CfE has the appropriate balance between learning core knowledge and new skills
  • Reform Scotland's Education Agencies – Education Scotland should not be responsible for curriculum development, and for inspecting it
  • Extend school autonomy so head-teachers are free to make decisions to help drive up standards in their own school community

Supporters of the Scottish government would argue it has already taken steps in some of these directions.

For instance, revised curriculum guidance has been issued and the government aims to try to give as much power as possible to head teachers through governance reforms.

The Conservatives said their paper followed extensive consultation with teachers, education experts and parents across Scotland.

'Back on track'

In her conclusion, the Scottish Conservatives education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "Throughout all the interviews and consultations we undertook, there was general agreement that the principles which underpin Curriculum for Excellence – and which were agreed unanimously by Scotland's political parties – are sound.

"This is because there is widespread agreement that pupils should understand why they are learning something just as much as what they are learning."

She added: "There was also general agreement however, that the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence has been fraught with problems which, in turn, have undermined its effective delivery in the classroom.

"There is no time to lose to get Curriculum for Excellence back on track and ensure that Scotland is, once again, leading the field in education."

Speaking as the paper was launched Ms Smith said: "Simply put, Curriculum for Excellence needs to be reset. Under the SNP, its implementation has been muddled at best and chaotic at worst.

"There is no point having a new curriculum if pupils are not getting the basics in literacy and numeracy and teachers are left confused by what they're supposed to be doing. As the evidence shows, this will only lead to disruption in the classroom as pupils switch off.

"The SNP must get a grip. Nicola Sturgeon said education was her top priority after she became first minister – only to spend most of her time obsessing over independence. In 2018, it is time she honoured her promise."

Responding to the Tories' paper, a spokesman for the Scottish government said CfE prepares young people to "thrive in today's world".

'Inadequate support'

He added: "Teacher numbers are rising in Scotland and are now 543 higher than last year as a consequence of the measures put in place by this government, including 11 new routes into teaching.

"We acted in 2016 to clarify and simplify the curriculum framework and to remove unnecessary bureaucracy, ensuring teachers can focus on providing valuable learning experiences for young people.

"Our education reforms will create a school and teacher-led system, empowering teachers to fully deliver the vision of Curriculum for Excellence."

He added: "Decisions that shape the education of our young people will be made in classrooms, schools and establishments by people working directly with those young people, their parents and communities. That is the correct approach to strengthen Scottish education."

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The EIS would agree that the founding principles of Curriculum for Excellence remain sound and would acknowledge that there has been a deficit of support from Education Scotland.

"The main challenges faced by CfE, however, have been caused by inadequate support, in terms of both staffing and resources.

"The most important steps that could be taken to ensure the success of CfE are the ending of austerity and increased investment in our schools, teachers and pupils."

He added: "In terms of recruiting more teachers, fast tracking a substantial pay increase would be the best recruitment tool available to Scotland's politicians."

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