Curriculum for Excellence

Scottish Executive Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 20th May 2010.

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Photo of Hugh O'Donnell Hugh O'Donnell Liberal Democrat 2:15 pm, 20th May 2010

To ask the Scottish Executive what evidence it has that all teachers are being given adequate support in the lead up to the implementation of the curriculum for excellence. (S3O-10549)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

We have identified support needs through Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education findings from inspections, advice from Bill Maxwell, the senior chief inspector of HMIE, and discussion with headteacher and teacher associations. We are responding to those needs by providing a range of support, most recently through the 10-point plan. We have written to all schools, giving them clear commitments on the timetable for delivery of that support and we are monitoring that programme closely to ensure that it is delivered. We continue to engage with teachers, headteachers, teacher unions and associations as well as with the directors of education to ensure the successful implementation of the curriculum for excellence.

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

Is the cabinet secretary aware of the results of a workload survey that was conducted by the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, which revealed that nearly 54 per cent of teachers are working in the order of 400 hours extra for their employers each year? Does he regard that as acceptable? What action does he intend to take to ensure that the implementation of the curriculum for excellence does not worsen the situation and put even more pressure on our hard-pressed teachers?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

There is no reason why the implementation of the curriculum for excellence should do that. The curriculum for excellence is not about changing the basic content of education; it is about changing the methodology. Indeed, in a system that the Education, Culture and Sport Committee endorsed in the first session—a system that is predicated on the professionalism and commitment of teachers—we rely on teachers to do their job well, and that should liberate them to a degree. One of the great problems that we found in the committee's inquiry eight years ago was that too much pressure is put on teachers to do things that they should not be asked to do. They should be encouraged to teach, and that is what the curriculum for excellence does. In all those circumstances, it should be seen for what it is: a positive development in education.

I am aware of the workload survey and all the survey work that the SSTA has undertaken. Indeed, when Mr McNulty and I were present at the SSTA dinner two weeks ago, I took the opportunity to talk to many representatives of the SSTA. I support every teacher in the process of implementing the curriculum for excellence and I am putting the Government's money where my mouth is by ensuring that all our resource is devoted to that. I am grateful to Bill Maxwell for the actions that he has taken, as the senior chief inspector, to enable that to happen and for the announcement that he made last Friday.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

None of the people with whom I spoke at the SSTA dinner felt liberated as a result of the implementation of the curriculum for excellence. Neither did that adjective come out of either of the two surveys. I ask the cabinet secretary to ask those members of HMIE who will still be doing their normal jobs—those who are in charge of inspections in primary schools—to look, as a matter of urgency, into the situation whereby some schools appear to be ditching their maths schemes in the context of implementing the curriculum for excellence. If that were to be extended to a significant number of schools in Scotland, I would view that as entirely unacceptable. Is the minister aware of that? What steps will he take to ensure that it does not happen?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I will be happy to discover whether there is any danger to the teaching of maths in primary schools. I have had no indication whatever of that. Indeed, the indications from primary schools of the way in which maths can be integrated into a topic-led approach under the curriculum for excellence are overwhelmingly positive.

I hope that Mr McNulty will bear in mind the quote from Ronnie Smith, which I repeat:

"Scottish education needs CfE to succeed, so we must work together to ensure that this will happen."

Simply matching every bit of progress that we make in underpinning the curriculum for excellence with a new criticism does not meet the aspiration that the Education Institute of Scotland clearly has for all politicians to work together to ensure that it happens and happens well.