There might well be a case to say that the implementation of new National courses in Scotland has been haphazard, not to say bungled. There may well be a case to say that the new courses bear no resemblance to anything mentioned in the original ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ vision – an eight word manifesto, folks, never forget that. What is clear, however, is that teachers in secondary schools all over Scotland are metaphorically, and literally I would imagine, crying into their pillows over these new courses. That they are being delivered as they are being developed, with one eye on the New Highers coming right behind them, makes Departmental meetings all over the country fraught, to say the least.
Teachers worry about these things because we care deeply about the education of the kids in our care, but also because we are increasingly aware of the ‘currency’ of the new qualifications and their future worth. What right have we to use classes as guinea pigs for a vision which has not yet been realised? So we question and complain and find fault because the children in our classes deserve perfection from us. We might never get there but the continual pursuit is what makes us effective educators. It matters. It is not only our right to question and find fault, it is our duty.
But, and this may be controversial, there may be an elephant in the room. When implementation of courses is over – and it will be; and it will be excellent – we may look back and think about the opportunities to discuss teaching, to develop processes of learning, which were missed because we spent too much time worrying about resources. Of course resources are important but, in English anyway, the processes of how we get children into the exam hall is far more important to me.
It may be a cliche to say that change is hard, because that’s not always the case; but do we ever stop and reflect on ourselves as teachers, departments, schools, and how much we have changed during that time? Are there still departments hoping to come through CfE implementation relatively unscathed? Is it still the case that some teachers still fail to realise the vision of CfE and are unconvinced by its intentions? Questioning is essential but it is also my job to ensure that ANY curriculum is successfully implemented, regardless of my objections. That may be a difficult truth but a truth nonetheless.
Perhaps our development time should be spent discussing teaching techniques, more focused lesson study, how we give feedback. Perhaps we should be observing each other more and developing cultures of professional inquiry and collaboration more than we do already. Perhaps we should be filming each other teaching and using that as a basis for developmental discussion. For as long as I can remember in teaching, I’ve had discussions which came to the conclusion that if we teach kids well they will pass any exam. Perhaps this is our opportunity. Let’s not waste it.