I liked the idea of EduPic as soon as I was told about it. An egalitarian environment in which people would be asked to contribute honestly to the debate about Scottish education was an attractive prospect. At the event, I found myself at a various tables in the company of forthcoming and passionate learning professionals, and some weighty discussions took place.
We discussed the topic of equality, and were asked to imagine how equality could be achieved if there were no constraints in place. We first of all considered that equality means a curriculum every pupil can engage with. In my time as a teacher, there were many occasions where I saw pupils underachieving in English as I tried to persuade them of the importance of writing a critical essay on a work of literature, which was realistically of no conceivable interest to them.
CFE should mean that these shackles are removed somewhat. Teachers can engage with the wider text, meaning greater freedom of choice about what to teach. However, the problem I expressed with this was that CFE has placed on teachers the responsibility for developing means of learning and assessment, without providing any real time to get this done. If I wanted to do a unit of work on a film, quite often I had to develop the resources from scratch. The pace of teaching often defeated me: I tried to create interactive lessons involving ICT, wider texts and topical lessons, but found I was working late into the night, without a social life bar Saturdays. I was surrounded by colleagues during my time at Inveralmond High School who were working even harder, and have found the teaching profession to be full of people prepared to give generous amounts of time to delivering the best for young people.
We moved on quickly from this to other discussions, and then people began to share some inspiring things. Kay Ramsay, head of Park Primary in Stranraer, gave the name of a book, The Spirit Level, in which Richard Wilkinson champions social equality and tries to map out a way to achieving it. Paul Campbell of CPD Strathclyde outlined a digital literacies project he had undertaken. Someone else mentioned Studio Schools, and English initiative which could point the way towards equality of choice in the curriculum. And as more and more people shared their knowledge and ideas, I felt increasingly that I could have cut my workload as a teacher by going and finding out more from others, gathering resources.
As Niall MacKinnon from Plockton Primary stood up to argue that CFE Experiences and Outcomes should be scrapped, I felt that this was an argument underlining the professionalism of Scotland’s teachers, and their resistance to delivering another prescriptive curriculum. It was encouraging to see that people don’t want to be hemmed in, and want to deliver lessons tailored to the best interests of the particular set of pupils in front of them. And I found it encouraging to think that teachers will have more sense than to relentlessly document the CFE outcomes they are hitting, and concentrate on delivering learner-centred education in their own way.
Scotland’s teachers are working harder than ever to enhance young people’s learning experiences. Give them the tools and the professional autonomy, and they will continue to deliver.