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Delivery of Curriculum for Excellence to be reviewed by MSPs

The move follows concerns schools in more deprived areas are placing greater restrictions on subject choice for pupils.

MSPs heard about subject choice from parents’ organisations on Wednesday (Ben Birchall/PA)
MSPs heard about subject choice from parents’ organisations on Wednesday (Ben Birchall/PA)

MSPs have agreed an evaluation should be carried out over how Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is being implemented in schools.

At the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, MSPs debated the delivery of the new curriculum structure, with the Scottish Tories claiming it had exposed some “fundamental failings with regard to subject choice”.

It follows concerns raised at Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee that schools in more deprived areas are placing greater restrictions on subject choice for pupils.

The committee has been conducting an inquiry into subject choices at Scottish schools.

Education Secretary John Swinney said he agreed with an amendment put forward by Scottish Labour’s Iain Gray that an evaluation of CfE implementation should be carried out.

But he argued Parliament should return to consider the matter when the Education Committee has had the opportunity to review the full range of evidence and when its report on the issue is made available.

Speaking in the debate, Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said the curriculum had “completely lost its balance” and now had less focus on core subjects.

Ms Smith said: “Education is the most precious gift that we give to our young people but for far too many of them the current system of schooling in SNP Scotland is letting them down.”

Responding, Mr Swinney said the debate on subject choice could have waited until the Holyrood’s Education Committee reports on its inquiry into subject choice in June, adding some of the evidence heard so far is “highly disputed” by other academics.

“Instead of looking at the bigger picture of what we are trying to achieve, and in my view in many instances succeeding in achieving,  what is implied is that the new system is providing our young people with fewer opportunities and I simply do not recognise that,” he said.

“Focusing on number of qualifications taken in S4 simply does not recognise that CfE enables our young people to achieve higher levels of knowledge and experience across a broader range of subjects by the end of S3 or that more and more young people stay at school beyond S4 and beyond S5.”

Rather than prescribing a solution, the motion today simply asks the Government to acknowledge the serious concerns that have emerged Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer

Mr Gray criticised Mr Swinney for wanting to hold an evaluation of CfE implementation after the committee had published its findings.

He said: “The Government have refused to listen for four years now and their amendment today would simply kick the can down the road for another day again.

“Our amendment offers a sensible way forward and I am pleased that the Deputy First Minister accepts that because it is also four years since the OECD report, Improving Schools in Scotland, exactly recommended a further evaluation of CfE implementation, particularly the senior phase.”

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said that pupils in the most deprived areas of Scotland were being offered fewer subject choices than pupils in more privileged areas.

Mr Greer said: “The principles of Curriculum for Excellence are the right ones, so are the priorities, but something isn’t working.

“Rather than prescribing a solution, the motion today simply asks the Government to acknowledge the serious concerns that have emerged.

“I hope the Government can see fit to swallow their pride and just do that.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott said: “The thing about this Government now is it’s been in power so long that anyone who dares suggest anything different gets put down on the basis of political opportunism.

“That’s the position that Mr Swinney is now in so I think he just needs to raise his game a bit.”

Speaking at Holyrood’s Education Committee earlier on Wednesday, Connect executive director Eileen Prior said she “intuitively” suspects schools in more deprived areas are giving pupils a more restricted subject choice than more affluent areas.

Also speaking to the committee, Joanna Murphy, chairwoman of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said many parents do not understand changes brought in through the Curriculum for Excellence reform of the school system.

PA

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