Just before Christmas I tweeted that ‘Sometimes the most difficult and challenging paths are the right ones. They can lead to positive outcomes for all pupils and schools.’ My tweet was partly born out of frustration at more negative comments in TES and elsewhere about CfE, but also to remind myself and others that the CfE journey we all face is a difficult one fraught with individual and systemic challenges.
One critic in TES described CfE as ‘change for change’s sake’. He’s right that CfE is a change, but I think wrong in seeing it as just change for the sake of it. We need to change what we do in schools and education to better meet the needs of all our pupils in a constantly changing world. It was ever so! The 21st century is going to be marked by rapid technological, economic and political change. We would be failing in our responsibilities as educators if we didn’t take account of this and prepare our pupils so that they are able to cope, adapt, thrive and find their place in such a world. A 20th century curriculum and system of delivery is not going to cut it any more!
Ken Robinson and others have argued the case eloquently for why we need to change what we do in schools and how we organise and deliver this. I have always believed that small changes can make big differences our development in schools, but I am coming round to Robinson’s view that what may now be needed in our education systems is ‘revolution not evolution’ We are not there yet but I do believe that the case for why we need to change has been made and what we now need to do is start to make those changes for the benefit of all our pupils. If we keep doing the same, we’ll keep producing the same.
Every developed country in the world has been looking at their education systems to see if they are fit for purpose for the learners of the 21st Century. Where they are seen to be lacking or behind where they need to be, changes are being planned, or are already happening. Scotland could be said to be ahead of many countries through the implementation of change and CfE.
So we are underway with necessary change in Scotland and CfE is the vehicle on which we travel on a journey of systemic and individual development. Change can be difficult and what may be asked of us as individuals and in our schools can be very challenging. Don’t anyone be under the illusion that these challenges are all in the Secondary sector. They aren’t! Primary colleagues face many of the same challenges as Secondary, as well as others that are perhaps particular to the different sectors. In no way do I fail to understand and appreciate the difficulty and complexity of the difficulties faced by teachers headteachers and schools across Scotland, but I am constantly reassured by the professionalism and willingness of colleagues to share, meet and solve these together.
Not least of the challenges that we face is the perceived lack of detailed guidance (or instruction?) from the centre. I remember when 5-14 was being introduced and lots of teachers complained about it being proscriptive, moaning that it was just passed down from on high and we were left to get on and deliver it! I think it is fantastic that we have been given the professional responsibility to shape and develop the learning opportunities for our pupils ourselves. We have the Es and Os as the starting point for our planning, and yes I know they can be rather vague and general. But, this means we as professionals in our schools, sectors, learning communities, authorities and across Scotland have the opportunity to develop something that is meaningful, which starts from where our pupils are at in their learning, which progresses their learning and understanding, builds on, and deepens, previous learning and experiences, and which facilitates cross-sector working, collaboration and understanding. We are also being given more professional responsibility for developing and incorporating assessment activities and moderation into our planning and learning and teaching practices. If we achieved all that consistently, what a better experience our pupils would have and we could be confident that they were developing skills, attributes, knowledge and attitudes to succeed in life, and as life-long learners.
So is CfE a path worth treading? It is for me, and I know many colleagues feel the same. That is not to say its a bed of roses, we know its not. But, if we want to really put children, and meeting their needs, at the centre of all that we do, its a very good starting point. It will stand or fall on our commitment as professionals to embrace the opportunities and not just see the difficulties. As I have indicated before, this is a journey not a destination.