Letter: New curriculum will limit pupils' choice

I WRITE in response to the article "Children change schools over curriculum fears" (News, 12 December). Many of the aspects of the proposed new Curriculum for Excellence are laudable, and as a parent I support the drive to extend cross-curricula teaching across a range of subjects in S1 and S2. It is hard to find fault with the general aims of broadening and enriching the learning experience of pupils.

The problem lies with what happens after S2. It is proposed that children will continue to follow a broad curriculum in S3 and specialise in S4. The subjects chosen to be studied for new National 4 or 5 qualifications in S4 will each require 120 hours' teaching time. Simple arithmetic shows that, within the current school timetable, teachers would not be able to fit in more than five subjects in S4.

If English and Maths are selected as options (I understand there is no compulsion to do this), then that only leaves three other optional subjects. This presents the anomaly that children will benefit from the broad education offered in S1 to S3 only to find themselves forced into selecting a narrow band of subjects for S4. If, say, a science student takes three sciences, there is no room within the timetable to choose a language, arts or humanities subject. Doesn't this rather defeat the original aims?

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It has been suggested to parents that additional subjects could be taken at S5, but it is difficult to see how subjects such as a language, maths or science can be taught coherently in such a stop-go fashion. In addition, studying five Highers in S5 would not allow time to take on additional subjects.

The implementation of the qualifications for the Curriculum for Excellence does not appear to be well thought out. The current emphasis within schools is developing course content at S1 and S2 and attention seems to be directed at satisfying the immediate needs rather than resolving the more thorny issue of what the final outcome should be. I find it hard to see how a coherent education policy can be developed in this haphazard way.

We have received little more than platitudes from the education secretary and the local authority. Private schools appear set to capitalise on this uncertainty and will continue to offer a full range of subjects at S4. If this is allowed to reach its logical conclusion, it will result in a two-tier education system, with the state sector further disadvantaged with respect to private schools. The Curriculum for Excellence needs a fundamental rethink before irreparable harm is done to a generation of children.

Alan Smith, Banchory