The Education Minister’s announcement that the Curriculum for Excellence would be assessed by the OECD would, on the surface, seem to be a good thing. An outsider’s view of what we’ve changed and how that change is working? What could be wrong with that? Well, it’s not so simple, is it? The bottom line is that no matter whether the outcome of the OECD report is positive or negative how will we really know whether the major curricular change of most of our careers has been a success or not?
The simple answer – and to quote Bill Hicks, that’s a judgement call and I’m making it- is that we won’t know. I’d like to make the case that our education system won’t change, whether we call it Curriculum for Excellence or anything else, until there is a radical change in culture from the staffroom outwards.
That might not be a popular point of view but, and I think we all know it deep down, there are still too many teachers who feel marginalised by this curricular change, are unconvinced by the need for curricular change and, let’s face it, are opposed to curricular change. So before we can judge whether our ‘new’ curriculum has been a good thing, a success even, there needs to be a battle for the hearts and minds of all educators involved in the process.
And the hearts and minds for curricular change won’t be won in the newspapers or on the television; they won’t be won at Parents Evening or at the Parent Teacher Council; they won’t even be won in the classroom. They will be won in the staffroom.
When the teacher who has been teaching for twenty years, still has twenty to go and feels that everything they have achieved is being dismissed – whether that’s merely their perception or not – is finally convinced that they have a contribution to make, then we will be moving in the right direction.
When we, as a profession, develop the confidence to question things which are being presented to us as good practice – why are we being asked to do this?; where is the evidence that it is effective?; what alternatives are there?; how do we analyse impact and when will we analyse that impact? – without being marginalised, passed over for promotion or even dismissed as a trouble maker, then we will be moving in the right direction.
When that word ‘impact’ and the discussion of it becomes a prerequisite for changing anything in Education: perhaps a new approach to learning and teaching; a Local Authority mandated strategy; a change in exam; a dictat from above; even anything we change in our own classrooms. When we can ask about or comment constructively on the impact of such changes – and, in turn, when we can be questioned about the impact of what we do as professionals – without recrimination, then, perhaps, we will be moving in the right direction.
I’ve written before about the mess we are making of what began as an Eight Word curriculum, an eight word manifesto, if you like. However, amongst the rancour and confusion, the poorly communicated assessment processes, the delayed issue of assessment documents, we still have young people waiting eagerly to be educated. There are amazing educators in all of your staffrooms. Whether we agree or not some of them feel that their voices are not being heard. Let’s start listening to each other. Other people can make up their own minds. Otherwise it’s just a lot of words.