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New President: Irene Matier


We must be brave and let our teachers ‘have a go’.

Change, Change, Change. Working in education we know all about it! We manage it and move our schools forward as best we can. We embrace the bits we agree with and that suit our individual schools and we do our best to dilute the bits we don’t like. So what about the huge change and challenge of Curriculum for Excellence?

In common with many colleagues I initially found the whole Curriculum for Excellence agenda a daunting one but I did like the underlying principles. In my own school we managed to get used to the terminology of the four capacities and even embed them into our weekly assemblies to the extent the children understand them and can use them to describe their successes. When we developed our Improvement Plan for this session it showed only small moves towards trialling cross curricular projects and matching good practice to the outcomes. I felt we had to take our time, take care not to loose the strengths we had developed over previous years and not overburden staff with too much change all at once. However I had seriously underestimated the ability, capacity and enthusiasm of several of these teachers!

A minor revolution was taking place during the summer break. The first I knew of it was a phone call just before the schools were due back which went something along the lines of, “Irene, I hope it’s OK, I know the Improvement Plan has been written, but we have been thinking and we’ve worked out a way of planning using the outcomes. We have planned a cross curricular topic too. Is it OK to go ahead?” My response? I am sure you can guess!

As I was trying to catch up with these enthusiastic teachers and calming the fears of some of their colleagues (Reassuring them that not everyone would be expected to move at the same pace!) I found myself propelled right into the heart of Curriculum for Excellence at a National Level.

AHDS was asked to nominate a representative for the expanded CfE Management Board and as incoming president this fell to me. In addition the Cabinet Secretary has convened meetings with a range of stakeholders to keep open communications and check on progress and I also represent you all at these meetings too. I have a lot to thank my innovative staff for. They have made me increase the pace of my own familiarisation of the outcomes and at least I can now speak from experience and some knowledge.

The Management Board has representatives from all the key organisations including the Universities, Colleges, SQA, ADES, LTS, GTC, Unions (EIS and SSTA), Professional Associations (AHDS, SLS) and HMIe. The Board has two roles:

  1. To ensure effective development and implementation of the programme
  2. To give collective advice (as the bodies responsible for delivery) to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning on CfE

No pressure then!

Overall there is professional agreement on the values, purposes and principals behind the curriculum review and an enthusiasm for CfE among most members of the Board. However I want to assure everyone that the challenges we face are recognised by both political and professional colleagues. The practical implementation is the issue.

Some key points that are recognised are:

  • The need for exemplifications but taking care not to prescribe a ‘right way of doing things’.
  • The need to better engage with all teachers.
  • The need to provide CPD and time for teachers to plan, reflect and discuss ideas with colleagues.
  • The need for a clear plan and timetable for implementation.
  • The need for a culture change, particularly in the secondary sector.

This last point is not surprising and the difference in perspectives across sectors is considerable. Our secondary colleagues are much more anxious! They are right to be concerned about the balance between the curriculum and qualifications and are also right to point out the time and effort that will be needed to build new curriculum structures in S1 – S3. However the culture has to change with all teachers taking responsibility for literacy and numeracy, working on cross curricular topics and moving away from thinking of themselves as just subject specialists. We all know that 5-14 never really happened in some secondary schools. I really hope that CfE does not fall at the same hurdle.

All members of the Management Board have been asked to make a commitment on behalf of their organisations to the implementation of CfE. I have agreed to this and have stated that I will encourage all members of AHDS to engage with the process, take part in trials if given the opportunity, respond to the online consultations and most importantly, be brave enough to let the teachers in your schools lead the change.

I hope I have gauged your feelings about CfE accurately and I will constantly remind the Board of the challenges we face, but I will do this with the underlying attitude of ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’.

Please email me with any comments, successes, problems so that I can represent you accurately and with confidence.

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