Curriculum for Excellence Implementation Partnership – September 2009

We held our first Implementation Partnership meeting of the new session today

80 senior representatives from Local Authorities and partner agencies and organisations met in Glasgow to reflect upon the following strategic question:

How can we support a coherent approach to promoting effective learners’ experiences for the P6-S3 stages?

We used a series of techniques which Con Morris has captured brilliantly using PREZI.  The partnership are very keen for others to participate in the debate by leaving specific comments on the CPD blog

The Engine Room

The Thinking Hats

The Skunkworks

The votes are in!

This school is more than a building, it’s a collection of unique people

Collection of Unique People by you.

I visited a school this morning and was chatting with the headteacher about her leadership philosophy.

As she described her desire to create a place where people were given space to be themselves – and not have to conform to a “clone-like”  model of professional practice – I was reminded of a wonderful sign outside South Leith Parish Church in Leith which reads “This church is more than a building, it is a collection of unique people”.

On walking around the building, watching some classes, speaking to staff and knowing the impact that the school is having upon children and families I think it would be fair to adapt the phrase to capture what has been created at this school.

I’m privileged to say that such statement could be used for the majority of schools in East Lothian.  Thanks.

Curriculum for Excellence – perhaps we can’t see the trees for the wood?

It seems like it’s open season on Curriculum for Excellence with various individuals and groups seeking to attack or defend Scotland’s new 3-18 curriculum depending upon their point of view.

It was this in mind that I wonder if perhaps we “Can’t see the trees for the wood”?

The traditional idiom reads “Can’t see the wood for the trees”   i.e. where someone gets so caught up in small details that they fail to understand the bigger picture.

My interpretation of some of the recent criticism of the programme is the opposite, i.e. they are so caught up in trying to describe the big picture that they fail to recognise the myriad of emerging details which come together to make up the whole.

That’s why when I’m working with parents I try to focus on actual examples of practice which exemplify the principles of Curriculum for Excellence – as opposed to describing/incanting the principles and capacities which tend make people’s eyes glaze over. I’m convinced that some of the claims about the wooliness of Curriculum for Excellence have been due to well intentioned attempts to decribe the wood – when a few well chosen desciptions of the trees would be much more useful.

Of course, there are still some details to be finalised – most notably in relation to assessment – but from a personal perspective I believe there’s more than enough for us to work on in a positive and creative mind-set which will be to the advantage of young people in Scotland.


Failing – or not yet achieving the standard?

Should children be allowed to fail?

This was particularly relevant this week when exploring the development of our Certificate of Educational Achievement for S1 – S3.  The question was asked of me “Will children be able to fail to achieve the certificate? Now such a seemingly innocent question struck at what has become a core principal of Scottish education over the last 30 years.  Much of this was set in train by the Munn and Dunning Reports published in 1977.  The Dunning Committee focused upon assessment, underpinned by the following principle:

“All pupils should be assessed in a way which would enable them to demonstrate positive achievement”

And there you have it.  One simple sentence which was translated in practice into “no child shall experience failure”, i.e.  even the lowest level of achievement should be recognised. 

Such thinking has certainly become the norm in Scottish education and woe betide anyone who thinks of developing any assessment system which doesn’t provide some form of recognition for all – even those who have done nothing to deserve such recognition.

Which got me to thinking about failure, for it seems to me that the very word in educational terms has become interwoven with the notions of self-esteem and personal well-being, i.e.  “You cannot label a child as a failure” – so what we do is find ways to recognise even the smallest achievements and try to give them value. But perhaps it’s time to question such orthodoxy?

Perhaps we have created a comfort zone for some children – who have come to learn that they need not invest any personal effort in their own education -knowing that whatever they do will gain some credit.  I’d say this is particularly true of many boys. 

Which takes me back to our plans for a Certificate of Educational Achievement to cover the S1-S3 stages of secondary school. In our system we hope to recognise achievement at three levels – pass, merit and excellence.  Which leads, naturally, to the question – so does everyone pass?  And, of course, if someone doesn’t pass then – then they must have, logically, failed.

But pause here and tease this out as little further. In our system we are hoping to develop a system whereby learners can accumulate points for achievement in a range of subject areas, wider achievements, skills, etc.  Our system will attempt recognise that personal achievements vary from person to person and that strengths in one area can compensate for weaknesses in others. In such a system accumulation of points lead one towards the thresholds established for pass, merit and excellence.  In this way learners don’t fail – as such – but have not yet reached the standard

One last point – we should always attempt to recognise the achievements of those who have particular and severe additional support for learning needs – in this way thresholds could be modified to take account of their personal circumstances. However, I would see this proportion of learners to be very small.


Trust me I’m a boss?

Is it any surprise that almost a third of us no longer trust our senior managers. How far do you trust your bosses to navigate your company safely through the choppy waters of the recession? Not as far as you can throw them, if the results of a new survey are to be believed.

According to the research, commissioned by the Institute of Leadership and Management and Management Today, almost a third of UK employees now have “low or no trust” in their bosses. In a year when the credibility of senior UK business figures and politicians has taken a pummelling, this probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; if anything, given the dismal showings of some of our financial captains of industry, it seems a rather generous verdict on their abilities.

Disgruntled workers seem pretty sure of where the blame lies for all this mess, too. They generally bypass line managers and point the finger at the people at the top, with chief executives of big corporations rating particularly badly on an index that measures ability, understanding, fairness, openness, integrity and consistency.

Bosses in national/local government and the media – two sectors coming under extreme pressure from the recession – fare the worst in the trust stakes, while those in charity and retail score highest.

Everywhere you look, senior managers are suddenly being asked by workers to justify their actions and (in many cases) vastly inflated salaries. Bosses at Barclays, for example, were stunned by the sudden unionisation and subsequent proposed strike action from employees over plans to scrap their final-salary pension scheme. Then there was the much-publicised occupation of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight, where workers refused to accept their management’ reasoning for closing down the factory.

Yet as others have shown, there is still room for management creativity in a recession – earlier in the summer, for example, when BT bosses proposed the company’s staff take a year off in exchange for a 75% pay cut in order to alleviate pressure on the business, the plan was met with warm approval by workers posting on talkboards.

Are you happy with your boss’s performance? Do you trust them to safeguard your jobs, or when it comes to the crunch, are they only interested in saving their own hides?

Guardian September 2nd 2009

ADES Led Curriculum for Excellence Implementation Partnership

 I have been chairing the Association of Directors of Education (ADES) led Cuurriculum for Excellence Partnership for the last 8 months.

This is a letter recently sent out to members and Directors of Education describing our approach for the remainder of this year.

Dear Colleague

On behalf of the Planning Group I would like to thank you and your colleagues from your Authority for the support they have given to the Partnership over the last six months.

The focus for the first four meetings was primarily upon sharing strategic information about the implementation process in authorities with a view to building capacity within local authorities and partner agencies.

The feedback received after each of these events has been very positive and the high level of attendance suggests that most members of the partnership gained from participation.

Nevertheless, it is our intention to move to a more strategic problem solving approach in the four events that remain for 2009, with a view to generating collective solutions to high-level strategic challenges that are of mutual interest to local authorities and partner organisations.

Following discussion with colleagues and reflecting upon some of the key themes that have emerged over the last year, we intend to focus on four inter-related strategic questions for the rest of this year. These questions are not intended to represent the comprehensive range of issues relating to Curriculum for Excellence but they will allow us to focus our attention on some of the key challenges facing local authorities as we move towards implementation in August 2010. Depending upon the success of this approach we intend to select additional strategic questions post December 2009.

The questions to be addressed are:

September 10th: How can we support a coherent approach to promoting effective learners’ experiences for the P6-S3 stages?

October 8th: How do we develop and provide an accountability framework within which schools can operate with autonomy, flexibility and responsibility in terms of the effective implementation of A Curriculum for Excellence?

November 19th: How can we promote leadership capacity to take forward Curriculum for Excellence?

December 10th: Over the next three years how can we promote wider curricular choice, based upon the principles of personalisation and flexibility, in the senior phase of secondary education?

In order to allow all members to participate fully in the discussions we will be providing authorities and partner organisations with a preparatory task before each meeting. We will also be capturing the outcomes from each of the forthcoming meetings and sharing these with members.

We are also keen to identify any authorities/organisations who would like to take a lead in developing some of these possible solutions with a view to sharing these with partner groups. In some cases we may also seek to convene small working groups to take forward some issues, which are seen to be of significance for all parties. We are hopeful that we can identify some funding to support such individual or collective action for the benefit of all local authorities. I may be able to provide further information about this on the 10th September.

I am also aware that you have recently received a letter from David Cameron, President of ADES, asking you to provide an update on the level of implementation within your own local authority.

We will be using this information to support the second event scheduled for October and I would encourage you to reply to David’s letter as soon as possible in order that we can collate this information with a view to identifying key issues.

I look forward to working closely with you and your colleagues over the coming year and assure you that we are seeking collectively to add value to the implementation process.

Yours sincerely

Don Ledingham

Chair, ADES led Curriculum for Excellence Partnership



Programme for the 10th September 2009


Strategic Question: How can we support a coherent approach to promoting effective learners’ experiences for the P6-S3 stages?

Approach: Following the brief introductory sessions the meeting will focus upon the key strategic question. Using an Engine Room approach we will seek to generate solutions to the following supplementary questions derived from the previous submissions from Local Authorities. These are:

  1. How do we ensure continuity of learning and teaching approaches from P7 – S1?

  2. How do we encourage ownership by all teachers of literacy and numeracy across the curriculum?

  3. How do we encourage subject specific teachers to accept ownership of the development of the four capacities for all children?

  4. How could we give the broad and general P6-S3 curriculum more value for parents, teachers, learners, employers and the general public?

  5. How do we ensure continuation in curriculum areas from P7 – S1?

  6. How will we ensure consistency in terms of assessment standards across schools?

  7. How do we ensure that the full implementation of CfE will lead to an improvement in achievement levels for all Scottish children and young people?

The Engine Room sessions will consist of a managed workshop

9.15 am Arrival, Registration and Coffee

9.45 am – Introduction and Welcome Don Ledingham

– Adding Value to the Implementation Process

– Clarifying our Respective Roles

10.15 am Horizon Scanning Jackie Brock, Scottish Government

10.30am Engine Room – session 1

12.30 pm Lunch

1.30 pm Engine Room – session 2

2.30pm Collating our solutions; identifying next steps

3.30 pm Close