Plus Ca Change……….

Compelling evidence has been found to suggest that Curriculum for Excellence is not in fact a vision for education in Scotland in the 21st Century but has been kicking around since the beginning of the 20th! Just look and listen to some of the language in these two texts. The first is from a Headteacher’s retirement speech made in 1904. Amazingly the film clip, from the Scottish Screen Archive of the National Library of Scotland, was recorded in 1938.

George F Duthie, a Victorian Headmaster, retired in 1904. He had been head at Woodside School , Aberdeen , for 50 years. He was also active in the EIS.

The following is from his retirement speech:

 “I taught the children, and they taught me; for I had much to learn of them and from them…The fact of difference of home circumstance – differences of temperament, of degrees of ability, mental and physical, of the power of sympathy and kindly words, became more and more to me elements in the problem of school keeping, and now I’m persuaded that a school curriculum which does not permit of the exercise of all these, carried on in a quiet, deliberate, and I had almost said leisurely way, will fail to develop the kind of men and women we would all like to see taking our places in the world… What we teach is important. How we teach is much more so.”

At the retirement, another teacher said of Mr Duthie that “..he imparted knowledge on true educative lines, sometimes leading in advance, ofttimes accompanying, but never driving, his pupils. He taught them to think for themselves , and he did so with quiet enthusiasm and cheerful kindness. …”


Life Beyond Exams

Exam marking finished and posted at last! The exercise has confirmed my belief that those who are able to see inside the setter’s head (students and teachers) are best placed to succeed. Couldn’t quite agree with what was required for some of the answers even after attending the markers’ meeting, although I can accept that the important thing when marking is to be consistent. When you boil it down, it seems to me that the difference between success and failure is whether a candidate is aware of the difference between “how” and “why”, not always an easy distinction to explain in the west of Scotland.

In fact, language can often be a barrier to success for many candidates, as was demonstrated in one school last year at the start of the Intermediate Practical Cookery examination. On opening the paper and finding the instructions, “1. Heat 3 tbsps of oil in a pan. 2. Add chicken and seal.” a distressed candidate put up her hand and asked the invigilator for assurance that they did in fact only have chicken.

Teachers’ thoughts are now turning to the long summer holidays of course, and why wouldn’t they. The job doesn’t get any easier and is much more physically demanding than people realise. But is there a more sensible way to organise the school year so that everyone wins? The Institute for Public Policy Research certainly thinks so. In a recent study they found that not only do young people’s reading and maths abilities regress over the long summer break, but the poverty of access to out of school activities for children from socially disadvantaged areas increases the gap between the haves and the have-nots. I think there are several other good reasons for re-adjusting the traditional school year. If you want to read more and join the debate you can read the original article in the TES archive.