Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Curriculum for excellence

From discussions I've had with parents in recent months I know that some are unclear about what Curriculum for Excellence is and, in particular, what this means for our child(ren). I would like to use my blog to share some of the discussions I've had with colleagues and parents to shed some light on what Cfe means in the context of James Gillespie's High School.

I attended various meetings today, but three in particular, have helped clarify my understanding of where we are at as a school in regard to implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (Cfe) and what we need to do to ensure that we continue to provide the best possible service for pupils.

My first meeting was with Billy Higgins, our school Quality Improvement officer, and Sandra Evans, DHT in charge of Support for Pupils. I was very pleased and reassured to learn that we have good systems in place for supporting pupils towards a variety of positive destinations beyond school. Of course we can do better and we will do this by making incremental changes in a number of areas. For example, we will seek to ensure that all pupils are given training in interviews. It is not only the pupils who leave to go directly into employment that will be part of this but also the large number who go on to university. In order to achieve this, one suggestion I am keen to take up is that we invite parents to support us by offering mock interviews and feedback sessions to pupils. A formal invite to parents to get involved in such a scheme will follow in due course, after we have had a chance to consider the best way of delivering such a scheme.

A meeting this afternoon with my senior leadership team gave us the opportunity to tease out some of the timetabling issues that we will need to consider very soon. Among these we will need to decide on the structure of what we offer in S3 and S4 to the current S2 who are our first Cfe group. We recognise that we must be both ambitious for our pupils but pragmatic and realistic too as the rebuild/decant project may impact on our service in the next few years.

Following on from this meeting we met with the Principal Teachers. This was a very positive and solution focused meeting. There was much discussion around the number and the nature of subjects we should offer in S3 and S4 and how assessment will be built into these courses. There was recognition that we need to offer more vocational courses to some youngsters but a strong consensus too that we must not change too rapidly and run the risk of losing established excellent practices.

In general terms, Cfe is about ensuring that every pupil gets the best possible education. Cfe requires us as educators to ensure that learning experiences are tailored to the needs of individual pupils and must reflect each pupil's context.

Of course, the notion that we offer the best possible learning experiences for every pupil is neither new nor revolutionary; schools have striven to achieve that for decades. So what is different about Cfe?

Cfe asks us as educators to achieve a number of things. Key among these is that we plan learning for pupils in order to ensure that learning experiences complement each other and are connected across subject departments. By doing this I foresee that time can be 'released' to allow pupils to gain other skills in other ways. For example, work experience and other 'out of school' learning opportunities can offer enrichment to more established traditional classroom approaches.

My experiences over the past week have confirmed for me that JGHS is a great school with the capacity and the potential to become even better.

Through further consultation with pupils, parents and staff over the coming weeks we will be better placed to firm up our curriculum plans for next session and beyond.


  1. Dear Mr MacDonald!
    Why do the kids have to do tasks for Cfe rather then the old questions?
    The subject science might have a problem there. The kids are used to this way of thinking. The results of tests: grade 3.
    Thats disappointing for them. Maybe the good old questions for a test are not so bad and might result in better exam.
    (S1, science)

    1. Please be assured that the changes we make to science will take acccount of pupils' views and will only be made if the change leads to an improvement for pupils. As a Science/Physics teacher I know that to get the best results we need to have a combination of 'hands-on' tasks and then some follow up work which is written to help you understand what is being taught. Please come and see me at break or lunch if you would like to discuss further. Thanks for taking the time to get in touch.

  2. This blog is extremely useful, thanks. I am likely to log in at least weekly.
    Best wishes
    Carina Hibberd (mother of Emma-Lykke Harris 5k3)

    1. Thanks for that. Please get in touch if I can help in any way. I hope Emma-Lykke is enjoying S5 and ready for the prelims which begin the week after next.