Curriculum For Excellence – A Parent’s View

This is the first article submitted by a parent of students at one of our Kip McGrath Tutoring Centres. We hope that other parents will also contribute to our blog about their experiences at Kip McGrath.  Having read our previous blog about Curriculum For Excellence, this parent wanted to add his own experience and we are very grateful to him for taking the time to write such a blog.

Curriculum For Excellence – My Views as a Parent

I am a parent of two children both at high school, one a third year student and the second a first year student.  My older child is preparing for standard grade exams next year and will see very little change in teaching practice as a result of the Curriculum For Excellence (CfE), the new curriculum being introduced to Scottish schools.  In contrast my youngest child will be in the first group of children in the school who will see teaching practices, and eventually even the exam system, change as a result of CfE.

When both my children were at primary school my wife and I were well aware of how the new curriculum was impacting on Primary teaching.  At its core the CfE aims to develop four learning capacities, to enable each child or young person to be a successful learner, a
confident individual, a responsible citizen and an effective contributor.  The curriculum aims to ensure that all children and young people develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they will need if they are to flourish in life, learning and work, now and in the future.  Full details of the CfE can be found on Learning and Teaching Scotland’s web site: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/understandingthecurriculum/whatiscurriculumforexcellence/index.asp

The new curriculum seemed to make sense at the Primary level and I was happy with how it was taken forward by my children’s’ Primary school.  But now that my youngest child is encountering CfE at high school there are a few issues that I think we parents need to think about.  Last week my wife and I attended a briefing session at our children’s school to hear about how the school was going to take CfE forward.

Having listened to what the head teacher had to say there are two major issues that cause me to think hard about what my youngest child will experience in the years ahead. Firstly the CfE gives the school much more flexibility in how it teaches and designs lessons in the school, not a bad thing in it’s own right I think.  Secondly to develop the four capacities there will be more teaching of subjects such as Maths across many subject areas to show children the practical applications of Maths and to reinforce Mathematical concepts, this is known as cross curricular teaching.

If I take the first issue highlighted by the head teacher, the degree of flexibility in teaching that is now being introduced.  Having spoken to some teachers (including my sister in law) many are concerned, not with the flexibility and freedom that they are getting, they welcome that, but the speed at which this is being pursued and the limited guidance they have received to date on how to design lessons and teaching.  Some teachers say they are confused about what it is they are now being expected to do in lessons and that it will take some time to iron out such issues.

My concern is that during this transitional phase the stability of the previous system is being lost and my child will not be exposed to a new degree of certainty until teachers are more comfortable with the CfE.  At primary level I was less concerned with this as my children did not face the prospect of exams, which is obviously not the case now.  We all know that stability is a key aspect in helping all children succeed in education.  Turmoil, confusion, change (even when it is for the better) can undermine a child’s efforts to learn. I know that the teachers in my children’s school will be working hard to reduce the prospect of instability undermining the hard work of the children.  But the simple fact of transition, as CfE is brought into all aspects of teaching and learning in the school, makes me more anxious as a parent.

The second issue that I thought about following thepresentation by the head teacher was the way core subjects, such as Maths and English, will be taught across the curriculum and not just in the Maths or English class.  Again I think this is a useful development and should help some children realise how important Maths and English is in both their learning and also in the real world.  My concern is more about the implications that this might have on how Maths and English themselves are taught than how my child will encounter Maths in other subject areas.

I might be something of a traditionalist here but my worry is that Maths and English teachers may look for more ‘exciting’ ways to teach their subject and sacrifice the core learning in lessons as a result.  All good teachers balance core learning(teaching concepts and ‘rules’ within the topic) while seeking to engage children in the subject to deepen their understanding of it.  I hope that the introduction of the CfE does not result in teachers focusing more on the engaging element, to try and makethe topic more appealing to children and in so doing sacrifice the core underlying learning, especially with more challenging topics and concepts.  Good teachers should make lessons interesting for children but they also need to get children to realise that some topics also require hard word, hard thinking and lots of effort in order to really grasp things.  This is the less glamorous side to teaching but critically important if children are to succeed.

Overall I think the introduction of the CfE will be good for Scottish children.  It should help more children learn better and fulfil their potential.  My concerns relate more to the transitional phase that my younger child will experience and the impact that this will have on how teachers ‘teach’ as they come to terms with the new curriculum and itsimplications for teaching practice.

All change, even good change, can lead to periods of instability as things move from one approach or system to a new one.  Change in the education of children raises important issues that as parents we will all be thinking about.  This means that as a parent I will be searching for means to keep some stability in my children’s learning environment as they experience change in their school and their classrooms in the years ahead.  I personally think that Kip McGrath will be important for my younger child in particular but will also remain important for my older child who will not be affected by the CfE directly.  Kip will provide some stability while the school makes the changes it needs to make to implement the CfE.  As the CfE is further implemented in my children’s school I also wish to see Kip’s approach evolve to support what my children will be learning and how they are being taught.  In the meantime I am happy that Kip McGrath and its teaching staff will be one pillar of stability as my children experience change in their learning environment.

Comment by Kip McGrath

These concerns are often raised by parents when bringing their child to Kip McGrath for an initial assessment.  Most parents (and some teachers) are still a little confused about how Curriculum For Excellence will affect their children’s education.  This particular parent has taken the time to talk to his school and other teachers and we would stress that these opinions are his alone.

If you have any concerns about your child’s education and would like to talk to one of our teachers or arrange a Free assessment, please go to www.kipmcgrath.co.uk to find your local centre.

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