HMIe have just published their most recent report on Scottish education in the form of Improving Scottish Education The report is based upon the findings of HMIe inspections and reviews of schools and local authorities in the period 2005-2008.
HM Senior Chief Inspector Graham Donaldson, in a very comprehensive commentary, sets out some the main challenges facing the Scottish education system. I’ve had a go at identifying twelve key action points from his commentary for local authorities to consider, with a particular emphasis upon the implementation of A Curriculum for Excellence.
1. MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO OUR FUTURE ECONOMIC PROSPERITY
“Scotland’s future economic prosperity requires an education system within which the population as a whole will develop the kind of knowledge, skills and attributes which will equip them personally, socially and economically to thrive in the 21st century. It also demands standards of attainment and achievement which match these needs and strengthen Scotland’s position internationally.”
2. LINK AGENDAS AND FOCUS ON ACTION
“I am encouraged by the extent to which The Early Years Framework, Curriculum for Excellence, Skills for Scotland: A Lifelong Skills Strategy and Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) address these findings. The challenge remains, however, to translate aspiration into action.”
3. MAKE USE OF INCREASED FREEDOM TO ADDRESS ISSUES AND RAISE STANDARDS
“The best of our local authorities are already leading curricular change and ensuring that high quality experiences and outcomes are being provided for learners. The challenge remains, particularly in a demanding economic climate, for all local authorities to use their increased freedom in innovative ways which address difficult issues and raise standards”
4. GIVE OWNERSHIP OF CURRICULUM FOR EXCELLENCE TO PRACTITIONERS
“Curriculum for Excellence embodies a new way of working. It recognises that sustained and meaningful improvement should, to a significant extent, be shaped and owned by those who will put it into practice.”
5. USE SELF EVALUATION AS THE FOUNDATION FOR IMPROVEMENT
“Self-evaluation should not be seen simply as more effective monitoring by managers but as the commitment of a staff team to reflect and improve. The increasing extent to which teachers are sharing, analysing and comparing each other’s practice, although still limited, is encouraging.”
6. MAKE OPTIMUM USE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TIME
“We have to place professional development, covering both subject content and pedagogy, at the centre of our approach to change if we are to achieve better experiences and outcomes for learners. The onus will be on local authorities, centres, schools and individual teachers to make optimum use of the time and expertise available for professional development.”
7. GIVE FORMAL RECOGNITION OF PROGRESS IN LITERACY AND NUMERACY
“Curriculum for Excellence proposes to address literacy and numeracy directly, emphasising the need to develop these fundamental skills across the curriculum and to provide formal recognition of progress up to the end of every young person’s school career.”
8. SEE ATTAINMENT AND ACHIEVEMENT AS ESSENTIALS NOT ALTERNATIVES
“Formally accredited attainment and broader forms of achievement are sometimes portrayed as alternatives. They are not. Both are essential to the future success of individuals and of our society and economy as a whole.”
9. DEVELOP AND MAKE USE OF AN INTELLIGENCE (DATA) LED MODEL OF PRACTICE
“Sound assessment is integral to the learning and teaching process and to our ability to be confident about standards. A prerequisite is for educators to ensure that they are secure in their judgement of pace and progress in learning. That means actively and rigorously seeking to develop and share knowledge, data and other intelligence about performance in order to be confident that each learner is achieving fully.”
10. SEEK PARTNERSHIP AT ALL LEVELS – AND SHARE THE IMPROVEMENT AGENDA
“Scotland’s lifelong skills strategy draws upon the agenda set by Curriculum for Excellencein the pre-school and schools sectors, and requires partnership working between schools and other sectors, including colleges and community learning and development, in developing skills progressively.”
11. IMPROVE THE EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES OF THE SOCIO-ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED
“The (OECD) report Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland3report highlighted the limited success of Scotland’s schools in tackling those differences in outcomes that are associated with socio-economic disadvantage. A number of important steps are being taken to address this fundamental issue, particularly through early intervention. Curriculum reform should also, in time, make an impact by improving motivation and relevance.”
12. DEVELOP NEW SYSTEMS OF ACCOUNTABILITY WHICH STRENGTHEN THE CAPACITY TO IMPROVE
“In our last report we said that systems of accountability must themselves adapt to reinforce the kind of changes in practice and in culture which the new ways of working demand. Since then, HMIE has significantly reformed inspections and reviews to focus on what matters most in terms of outcomes for learners, building directly on self-evaluation and enhancing capacity by promoting well-judged innovation.”
Thanks for the ‘action point’ summary – I’m involved tomorrow at a twilight session with a group of PTs/SMT looking at ‘Self-Evaluation’. It’s a big challenge for schools looking to engage already hard-working committed staff towards a genuine culture of professional reflection and sharing. Being open in this way is rather an ‘unScottish’ trait, don’t you think?
However, I’m very optimistic about the way forward in this and at recent authority CPD events I’ve noticed increasing numbers of school staff developing an interest and enthusiasm for professional dialogue and sharing.