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Curriculum for Excellence will be ten years old this coming November. This is if we count its date of birth as the publication of the report of the Curriculum Review Group in November 2004 which was titled ‘A Curriculum for Excellence‘ – which is as good a time as any to measure its age by I think. There are many interesting issues which arise from this policy process reaching double figures…firstly, for some in Secondaries, CfE is only two months old – i.e. it only really started in May of this year when students sat the new exams for the first time! For others, a ten year old policy would imply that we must surely have got to grips with it by now and it must surely be fully implemented – how though do you ever fully implement excellence? For many however, the growing suspicion might be that a ten year old policy is surely in its dying days. Don’t we do big bang reform every 10-15 years or so?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m pleased to learn that there is an effort being made by SG/ES to avoid further big bang reforms through the new CLTA forums and I really hope these are successful in this endeavour. However, are the winds of change already amongst us? As David Cameron mentioned at #PedagooGlasgow, the focus seems to be shifting back to attainment – which is evident from the theme of this year’s SLF. Also, has anyone else noticed that the term ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ seems to be being slowly played down on the Education Scotland website?

Change, I suppose, is inevitable and desirable. This can be hard for many teachers to hear after having lived through the last ten years, but it’s the reality of modern life. The real question therefore should probably be about what sort of change we want and for what purpose? The assumption I was alluding to above is that Government at some point in the coming years replaces CfE with something else. My personal fear in this scenario is that it takes the form of a pendulum swing back towards a focus purely on attainment, testing and rote learning. But perhaps this isn’t the way the change needs to happen?

I’ve long felt that CfE was implemented the wrong way round. To put autonomy onto teachers who have not experienced autonomy for years, does not necessarily feel like a good thing! I’ve argued on a few occasions in the past that we should’ve started with skilling up and reprofessionalising the profession before attempting to implement a new curriculum. I always felt that trying to achieve transformational change through giving out folders and subjecting teachers to powerpoints was unlikely to be successful. But we are where we are, so where do we go from here? Well, we now have in place a relatively future-proof set of policies at their core which we’re all relatively familiar with on some level. At the same time, we’re now in the process of implementing some visionary new professional standards from the GTCS which, I think, up the game in terms of what this job of ours involves – particularly in relation to engaging with, and contributing to, research. As a result, we’re beginning to see an increasing engagement with enquiry and research across the profession. This is more like the form of professional learning which is likely to bring about real change in classrooms I think.

Perhaps, therefore, the time is right for us as a profession to shape the direction of the curriculum in the future. As an engaged and researching profession, we can have the confidence to argue the case for change and make sure the curriculum continues to evolve in the way that we think it should and make it what it should be for our young people. I once wrote a fictional history post which suggested that this is the way it should’ve been the first time, which was always a bit far fetched…but perhaps it’s less so this time round?

So rather than fearing possible further changes to the curriculum in the future, let’s engage in enquiry, debate and policy forums and make sure that change does indeed happen for the benefit of our future learners. Perhaps that’s what CfE2.0 could and should be?


I’ve expanded on this post here.

Should Pedagoo be more activist?

This is a question which has been on my mind since Saturday’s fab #PedagooGlasgow event. Pedagoo exploded in its first two years and was potentially turning into a million and one things, which I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with. Following a period of illness and relative inactivity on my part, I decided to try and reinvigorate Pedagoo by putting many of these ideas to one side and focusing on our core business – positively sharing classroom practice. This has been, and is being, achieved through our twitter, our blog and our events without the need for any fancy structures, bank accounts, committees, paperwork etc.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really beginning to feel that the community is really returning to its vibrant best. There are loads of fab events across the UK, lots of brilliant blog posts and #PedagooFriday just keeps on growing. But there were a few comments made on Saturday in Glasgow which made me ponder if we could and should perhaps be doing more to more actively fight the forces of negativity…not least David Cameron’s rousing opening speech (and largely unrepeatable closing speech!)

Could we perhaps be getting out there a bit more and making the positive case for progressive reform in education? Part of me is drawn (and terrified) by this idea…which is why it has dominated much of my thoughts these last few days.

Ultimately though I think I’m coming to the conclusion that we keep doing what we’re doing. We’re changing the game here and we don’t need to play by their rules. Fighting fire with fire normally doesn’t achieve much in my experience. Let’s instead continue to focus on developing and sharing our classroom practice positively and professionally and as a by-product perhaps we’ll influence the wider picture. After all, Pedagoo is about showing what’s possible…not saying what’s wrong.

Unless however, you disagree. What do you think? Should Pedagoo be taking a bigger stand in wider educational debates? If so, what exactly is Pedagoo and who would take this stand? I think perhaps we just don’t fit in to the past models of professional associations, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and if we try and change Pedagoo to make it fit more easily, there’s a chance we might break it…

Planning with the Learning Cycle


I mentioned this on #PedagooFriday last week. My S1 Learning Skills class are about to plan and deliver lessons in groups using our six part learning cycle. I first asked them to brainstorm ideas for each stage in the cycle based on their experiences in lessons this year. I was blown away by their responses – especially for the ‘Discuss Leanring Outcomes’ stage where they mentioned discussing the learning outcomes in groups, setting targets and agreeing success criteria for the lesson. If they manage all that in their lessons perhaps I’ll even learn a thing or two!

Masters Level Learning

I was a bit worried that last post would be a bit dull given that I was effectively just sharing that I went to a meeting of a new group, but I think it turned out a bit more interesting than I’d expected (if I do say so myself!)

So, I thought I’d follow it up with a similar post on another group I’m on which has just had its first meeting too. You’ll have heard of the Donaldson report, obviously, but you may (like me) have struggled to see any real change coming through in terms of teacher professional learning – apart from the new Standards of course. Well, I’m delighted to discover that there’s more going on than I had realised – at least in the Lothians, but probably in other regions too.

Edinburgh University are working with City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Fife, Midlothian, Scottish Borders and West Lothian to develop Teacher Education Partnerships. The working group I’m on is developing pilots for Masters-level learning opportunities collaboratively developed in partnership between the University and the Local Authorities, and there are other groups developing other pilots also.

Although there are many and obvious concerns regarding the implemenation of this shift in how teacher professional learning is offered, I think there is real potential here to raise the standard and outcomes of the sorts of courses on offer to us. Particularly as practitioner enquiry seems to be featuring heavily in the conversations so far – which makes me happy and gives me hope.

There’s more info on progress implementing the Donaldson report on the Teaching Scotland’s Future website.