Alan McKenzie: We must be ready when schools D-Day arrives

Students and teachers are at centre of huge changes. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA.
Students and teachers are at centre of huge changes. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA.
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The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) continues to have serious concerns about this year’s launch of Curriculum for Excellence.

These concerns go beyond simply the natural anxiety over a major curriculum change.

It would be quite wrong to dismiss the reports from our members of problems as simply anxiety or ritualistic moaning.

Our members care both about the young people in front of them who rely so heavily on being taught by a teacher who is confident about what lies ahead and the future of a curricular reform that may make Scotland an educational pathfinder.

However, too many members are reporting to us a lack of this very confidence in terms of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), complications and confusion around verification, assessment demands that are impossible to adequately meet and a continuing lack of support materials which can be used constructively in the classroom.

We already have stories from Edinburgh schools of problems relating to prelim exams taken before Christmas of young people feeling ill-prepared and failing in subjects in which they would normally have felt confident.

This cannot be good and if teachers lack confidence in the process young people will too.

We are aware of Scottish Government’s determination to support Curriculum for Excellence and, in recent meetings with them, we have been impressed by their commitment to take this forward towards what is I suppose best described as D-Day.

The SSTA recognises that D-Day cannot be delayed regardless of the prevailing weather conditions.

However, the SQA needs to listen carefully to our concerns as the day approaches and ensure that every effort is made to address the issues that we are raising so as to avoid a potential disaster for our young
people.

Delay is not possible but additional meaningful support is and we request this as a matter of priority.

In particular, schools need more reassurance by verifiers and if money has to be spent on visits to schools or the holding of emergency subject events then let that happen.

This is not a time for worrying about additional expenditure to fix a problem that can be fixed even at this late stage.

Nor is it a time for both sides in this ongoing debate about state of readiness to simply posture.

We do not believe we are being alarmist in continuing to raise our concerns and it is simply wrong for others to adopt a complacent smugness in the face of our concerns.

For the sake of both the young people of Scotland and the future of a radical curriculum reform, please listen to us and let us work together to fix the problem.

Alan McKenzie is acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association