School chiefs issue 'jargon buster' for parents

A NEW factfile, which explains some of the complicated jargon used in education, has been published by the body that runs the school curriculum.

Learning and Teaching (LTS) Scotland has published the leaflet after years of criticism of its Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

Teachers, parents, headteachers and educationists are among those who have warned it is "woolly", "vague" and difficult to understand.

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The new online leaflet provides definitions and explanations for the four capacities, the seven principles of curriculum design, and the eight curriculum areas.

It also tries to explain what is meant by "experiences and outcomes", "levels", "entitlements", "assessment" and many other aspects of the Scottish 3-18 curriculum.

However, critics said it still contained a lot of difficult and complex language.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "Anything to help parents understand Curriculum for Excellence more clearly is to be welcomed. Unfortunately, education has become an area where jargon is rife. The result is that very many parents - and probably many in the profession too - feel excluded.

"The new factfile is certainly a step in the right direction: the next step is to move away from the jargon completely."

A key aspect of the latest guidance is to explain the different age groups of education.

For example, it explains the "senior phase" is when pupils take exams and prepare to leave school. However, some definitions are likely to shed little light to the average lay person.

The leaflet states: "Third and fourth levels - S1 to S3 with the fourth level broadly equivalent to SCQF (see abbreviations section) level 4."

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About "skills", it says the following): "CfE emphasises the development of skills for learning, life and work.

"These include higher order skills - thinking about complex issues, problem solving, analysis and valuation; creativity; and critical thinking skills - making judgments and decisions, developing arguments and solving complex problems."

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said: "Any document which enables parents to understand educational planning and become fully involved in the education of their children is to be welcomed."

However, a spokeswoman for the Plain English Campaign said: "Educationists and academics are often the most critical of plain English, perhaps because they are so intent on expanding and enlarging on every subject. We think it is well past time educationists at all levels used plain language in education and encouraged a strong base for those basic communication skills that are at the core of our society."She said the latest leaflet was still full of technical language ,such as "pre-vocational" and "critical thinking skills", as well as business shorthand such as "to find material, communicate, create and present".

She described the phrase "positive and sustained destination" as "ludicrous".

Chrissie Maher, founder of Plain English Campaign, said: "As someone who struggled to get access to any schooling as a young person, and as an adult, I value the skills of educators above any other.

"But without the key of plain language, the benefits of learning will remain a closed door in many lives."

The Curriculum for Excellence was in development for more than a decade before it was fully introduced in all schools last August. That followed a year's delay because teachers argued it was not ready.

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No-one from LTS Scotland was available for comment last night.