Curriculum for Excellence (Implementation)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 29th April 2010.

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Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour 12:00 pm, 29th April 2010

To ask the First Minister how ministers will respond to the Ipsos MORI poll carried out for the Scottish Government showing that only 25 per cent of secondary teachers believe that they are sufficiently prepared for the implementation of the curriculum for excellence in August 2010. (S3F-2363)

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

The curriculum management board survey of teachers found that the majority of those responding—58 per cent—expressed confidence that their school is ready to implement the new curriculum. However, the survey revealed that some teachers, particularly in secondary schools, lack confidence, which is why we have put in place a 10-point action plan that directly addresses the concerns that teachers have raised. The plan includes additional resources—making an additional £3 million available to support implementation—and provides the practical help that teachers have asked for. We are confident that the action plan will meet the concerns that some teachers have, and we will continue to discuss those concerns with the teaching unions. However, it is important that the management board, which includes representatives of the teaching unions, unanimously recommended that we go ahead with implementation in secondary schools, saying that it is

"assured that the existing programme plan remains realistic and achievable."

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

The action plan was indeed welcome, although, as the First Minister knows, it does not fully meet the anxieties of teachers, let alone parents. Will he respond to the concerns raised by the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association on subject content and coursework? Is he able to do so before the SSTA's conference on 7 May? In particular, will he make up his mind whether pupils will be examined on the coursework that they study in their third year of secondary?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

The education secretary is meeting the SSTA and the other teaching unions, because the discussions do not rest on the 10-point plan. It is important for Ken Macintosh to remember that the 10-point plan was announced after the various surveys, including the one that he mentioned, were done. The 10-point plan, which I have in front of me, goes into great detail on many of the areas that had been expressed as concerns. Ken Macintosh can be absolutely assured that the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning will be having close discussions with the SSTA and other teaching unions. I am sure that Ken Macintosh knows that, although the roll-out of the curriculum for excellence in secondary schools is this year, the examinations are four years away.

Photo of Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative

Will the First Minister acknowledge that the main reason for concern among secondary teachers about the curriculum for excellence is not its principles but the lack of any clear picture about what will be required of teachers to meet the new demands of the Scottish Qualifications Authority's examinations structure? Can he give us a timescale for when that structure will be available?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

That is one of the aspects that the education secretary is discussing with the teaching unions. I know that Elizabeth Smith has supported, or at least made favourable reference to, the 10-point plan, on which those detailed discussions are taking place in a friendly and co-operative way.

Elizabeth Smith will remember that every curriculum change that has been introduced into Scottish education over the past two generations has been met with concern and difficulties. That is inevitable when a substantial curriculum change is being introduced. The education secretary has emphasised our pledge to continue discussions so that we can allay those concerns, go through the points of concern and, I hope, achieve the same broad consensus across the teaching unions that already exists in the management board.

I know that Elizabeth Smith and others would not want to give the wrong impression about the range of substantive quotes from people who have come out strongly in favour not just of the 10-point plan but of the principle of the curriculum for excellence. It is supported by many significant people from across the education sector in Scotland, including parents, teachers and their representatives and headteachers. I know that she would not want to give the impression that there is not a huge reservoir of support from people who believe that the curriculum for excellence is indeed the way forward for Scottish education.

Photo of Hugh O'Donnell Hugh O'Donnell Liberal Democrat

Will the First Minister clarify how the plan that he has spoken about will encourage—or perhaps, dare I say, champion—the cause of the curriculum for excellence with local authorities, which will play a substantial role in driving the issue forward?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

One change that the education secretary—and, indeed, his predecessor—made was to bring on to the management board a wide representation of interest groups in Scottish education. There is substantial support for that reason. Of course change causes uncertainty and difficulty—that is an inevitable part of introducing change—but the manner in which the change is being processed and gone about, and the manner in which the education secretary has set to his task, will bring the maximum support behind the curriculum for excellence. I know that Hugh O'Donnell will be right there with us as we move to implement this vital reform.