Michael Russell: Preparing for the best education possible
EDUCATION secretary Michael Russell responds to the views of parent Gaynor Allen on Scotland’s new Curriculum for Excellence in education
As Scotland’s education secretary I’m committed to delivering the best possible education for our children and young people. It’s an unswerving commitment, central as it is to the Scottish Government’s ambition of making Scotland the best place in the world for children to grow up.
At the core of this vision sits Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) – the most significant and wide-reaching development in Scottish education for a generation.
I am proud to be part of a listening government which will always take on board the views and concerns of those we represent. Just eight weeks ago I spent an evening with the Inverclyde parent councils, and I’m always happy to engage in this way.
Working with Education Scotland, we’ve prepared a teachers’ toolkit to help them talk to parents about CfE. This includes slides, films, guide books and a series of information leaflets. Education Scotland has also been around the country recently speaking to parents at a series of local CfE information events.
Elsewhere, the National Parent Forum for Scotland (NPFS) has also held parent focus groups to understand what they need. We’ve also recently issued a postcard explaining (in simple terms) the benefits of CfE, and the key changes of which parents need to be aware. This has been distributed to many thousands of parents via schools, nurseries and public places such as libraries and chemists. We’ve also produced a range of fact-files answering questions raised by parents, while introducing new School Handbook legislation to ensure parents get the information they need from their schools on CfE.
I realise and accept that change can be unsettling, even when that change is fundamentally for the better. CfE is certainly something for the better, and that is a view shared by this government and educators and parents the country over.
The result of an eight-year effort backed by all of Scotland’s main political parties, CfE – Scotland’s big educational idea – is all about what our country wants from its education system and what in turn, we want to give to our young people.
Through CfE, pupils are being taught differently and are learning better. By building the curriculum around each pupil we bolster their individual skills, knowledge, confidence and capacity for lifelong learning.
It also helps pupils’ curiosity to understand their world; to try out and test new ideas; to be encouraged by their own success in understanding something new and then to go and discover more. In short, “a different and improved way of studying’’, as Gaynor Allen herself so appositely describes it.
Across Scotland we also have tens of thousands of excellent teachers who work daily to enthuse, encourage and motivate their pupils’ learning. And make no mistake, we are supporting them to do what they do best – inspire a new generation of doctors, engineers, plumbers, teachers, musicians, nurses and artist among others.
Many parents and teachers recognise what CfE has already delivered in providing a well-rounded education for their children. The overwhelming message I hear from parents across the country is one of support to press firmly ahead with its implementation. They already see the benefits and are keen to make sure their children continue their progress, without disruption, through to the first group sitting the new exams.
Again, while I’ll always look to accentuate the many examples of just how well the new curriculum is already delivering, I’m equally sympathetic to those such as Gaynor Allen, who may still hold some reservations. As noted, this government listens. So when some teachers as well as parents told us they had similar concerns – if not about the curriculum itself, but around the pace in which it is being embedded – we also responded.
First, we asked Education Scotland to conduct an audit of schools across Scotland which showed that a few teachers did in fact need more help and support to allow them to be ready for when the new qualifications start in 2014. As a result, earlier this year, we made an agreement with main teaching union the EIS, to deliver an additional £3.5 million package for secondary teachers who need extra support at this time.
As such I remain confident of our progress in implementing CfE. We have met all of the timescales for delivery to date and made good on each of our commitments in this area.
We will continue to help our children progress, working with and listening to parents, schools, teachers and pupils themselves to make sure we finish what we have started and provide Scotland’s children and young people with the best education possible.
As we do that, we will always value the views and input of dedicated, passionate and driven parents such as Gaynor Allen. We will continue rising to the challenge of doing more even in these times of Tory and Lib Dem cuts.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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