By engaging in the reverse engineering process I’ve started to throw up some issues which hadn’t been quite as obvious until you try to deal with some of the practical challenges presented by the guidance set out in A Curriculum for Excellence.
One of these emerging problems has been in relation to the S1 – S3 curriculum – which I’ve started to explore in Imagine S3.
Whilst there is a general recognition that the early years of secondary education are a period of educational stagnation and even regression for many students it can at least be given value by being linked to the certificated curriculum. In fact such is the power of this “value through certification” that some schools in Scotland have introduced the certificated curriculum even earlier. The logic for this step is quite compelling and it certainly demonstrates that a school is dae’n sumthin” to address the fallow early years of secondary school.
Against this background schools are being asked to develop an S1 – S3 curriculum which is broad based and prepares students for the “senior phase of education which provides opportunities to obtain qualifications…” In my Imagine S3 post I am proposing to follow that guidance and that the only formal certification which will take place in these early years of secondary education will be in numeracy and literacy.
In my exemplar curriculum the focus in S1 – S3 would be upon an “employability portfolio” – which would include numeracy and literacy and a range of other evidence of the range of life, learning and work skills which the young person has developed up to that point. I know that for some the idea of employability as a focus for education is a step too far, but I’d ask that you go with me here as I think we can flesh out a definition of employability which would be compelling, inclusive, and above all, easily understood by young people, parents and the wider community. Nevertheless, it would remain a fact that the S1 – S3 curriculum would not be certificated – as we currently know it.
Now compare this against the school which has early certification who can point out that by the time young have completed S3 they have a a set of formal qualifications. So the question is- would parents value something akin to what I have described as the S1 – S3 broad, employability focused curriculum which would provide their child with a set of skills to go forwards into the rest of the lives as learners and adults – or would they just like to have the comfort of certificates as concrete evidence of achievement?
Yet the question does not just pertain to parents – the leap that such shift would require in the thinking and practice of teachers themselves might present a barrier which in itself would undermine the success of any such change to the S1 – S3 curriculum.
The last group who need to engage with this question are the young people themselves. Ironically, in many circumstances in schools, it can be the students who are the most conservative, i.e. they like what they know. Yet I believe that if they were to be actively involved in creating and shaping their curriculum – with a focus upon employability – schools could create something exciting, productive and well placed to build upon the primary school experiences and prepare for the senior phase of school and beyond.