Scottish government criticised for ‘failing’ education policy

Credit: Wikimedia Commons / pschemp

Rowan Harris
Writer

The Scottish Conservatives have called for reform of the Scottish Government’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), which is the current policy framework for education in Scotland.

In a paper published on 9 January, the Scottish Conservatives set out five key recommendations for reform to CfE, amidst growing concern over the efficacy of the current system.

Liz Smith MSP, Scottish Conservatives’ Shadow Education Secretary, said: “There was general agreement that the principles which underpin CfE – and which were agreed unanimously by Scotland’s political parties – are sound”, referring to the ”four capacities” which the curriculum seeks to develop: successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

Improvements were suggested under five main headings, which dealt with a range of current education issues.

Clarity, Accountability and Measurement argues that parents, teachers and students need more information about what CfE is expected to deliver and whether it is succeeding.

Teacher Numbers, Workforce Planning and Teacher Training addresses the drop of 3,500 teachers since 2007, and suggests improving access routes into teaching and reducing unnecessary paperwork which takes time away from the classroom.

A Clear Focus on Core Skills stresses the need for greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy alongside sharper focus on traditional subjects in the Broad General Education (BGE) part of the course.

Reforming the Education Agencies argues that Education Scotland should not oversee both curriculum development and inspections, and calls for be a greater number of inspectors and inspections to be carried out.

Extending School Autonomy calls for the devolution of greater powers to headteachers for budgeting.

CfE was introduced in August 2010, with the aim of creating a coherent framework for education from early learning through to high school leavers. Its implementation is ongoing, and has involved changing the stages and format of school exams, as well as the range of subjects on offer.

College lecturer and journalist James McEnaney, who, having previously been a teacher in a high school, said the Conservative paper “feels like it’s designed with politics in mind rather than pupils.”

Criticising the “contradictory and noticeably vague” details of the paper, he believes the impact will be minimal, citing “austerity policies championed by […] the Tories” as a factor which badly undermined the implementation of the CfE from the outset.

However, McEnaney also agrees that the Scottish Survey for Literacy and Numeracy, which was discontinued in May 2016 and showed a downward trend in literacy and numeracy rates across all age groups, “shouldn’t have been abandoned”, and he believes reform is needed.