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Do teachers like CfE?

(35 Posts)
NoLotteryWinYet Sat 01-Apr-17 20:20:29

I've been wondering about the Scottish 'Curriculum for Excellence' - do we have any Scottish primary teachers on here and what do you think are its strengths and weaknesses? How long has it been going and what results do you see?

prettybird Sat 01-Apr-17 20:58:00

Not a primary school teacher but did a lot of work with the SMT at ds' primary school (was chair of the school board and dh was chair of the PTA and then the Parent Council, which we continued to be part of until ds left).

The school had an excellent inspection (about P4?) and was highly regarded as an exemplar of best practice for coping with English as an Additional Language (which they used to enhance all the pupils' education).

As far as they were concerned, nothing changed when CfE was introduced - and we didn't notice any difference in the way he was taught. He'd always done English, French, Maths and Science when studying eg "bridges" (that's not a real example but I can't remember the topics ds did).

I talked to them a couple of years ago when I popped in to drop some old uniform off and asked them again about CfE as my niece & nephew had started school and the teachers at their school were blaming CfE for the rigidity of their schooling. Ds' old teachers were confused as they said that nothing had changed in the way that they taught and that CfE encouraged flexibility - at least in a primary school context. Their view was that it was the way that good primary schools/teachers had always taught.

Where I did notice was that the reporting of the levels that ds was achieving wasn't as clear. It changed to a Venn diagram of Consolidating and two others (which I can't remember and if I leave the app I might lose what I've typed) which was never completed. When I asked about that, they said something about Glasgow City Council having issued an edict boycotting(?) it or that they'd not agreed with/not signed up to it.

It didn't matter with ds as we were confident that he was progressing well in all areas, but I can understand that it would have been more difficult for parents of kids who might have been struggling, not not knowing whether they were achieving to the appropriate level.

NoLotteryWinYet Sat 01-Apr-17 21:16:50

Was it supposed to produce any measurable improvements? I've nothing to compare it to but I find my dd's reports vague indeed, this could be a specific issue with her teacher this year though.

RedScissors Sat 01-Apr-17 21:59:16

So much has changed in Scottish education that it is quite hard to pin down the root of today's problems.

Presumption of mainstream has had a huge effect on class sizes and what teachers are expected to deal with. What we currently have is simply not the model of inclusion that was promised. Immigration has also vastly increased, so at the same time as dealing with complex physical and behavioural needs, teachers are also dealing with children who arrive speaking no English.

It is true, as prettybird says, that flexibility and creativity are encouraged. In many ways, the core principle is great.

However.

1. Flexibility was encouraged by having no set guidelines for what was going to be taught at each stage. This meant individual teachers, schools and councils all working out schemes of learning, but nothing was shared nationally. All that work could have been halved. Paperwork is a big concern for many teachers.

2. There are far too many Es & Os which are far too vague.

3. Flexibility, creativity and 'active learning' (often used as a shorthand for running around the school doing Murder Mystery Maths) are very expensive. You need extra classroom assistants, especially when you've got 33 in your class. You need lots of resources. It also (imo) takes a lot longer to help children become good at the skills you're teaching.

In short- great idea, but currently being done on the cheap.

prettybird Sat 01-Apr-17 22:17:05

In theory, it's supposed to result in improvements - because it's supposed to be built on best practice, which not all school followed. But as ds' school was already an example of best practice, there wasn't much difference to see winkconfused

Ironically, given that one of the complaints about CfE is the lack of reporting, it's apparently inspired by the Finnish system, where there are no reports shock

prettybird Sat 01-Apr-17 22:32:28

Further to what RedScissors has said, one of the reasons it probably worked so well at ds' school (even before it was implemented wink) is because of all the foreign languages spoken and its relative deprivation, so it already had "extra" teaching resource.

So team teaching was the norm - factored in to the teaching plans. In addition to the "extra" EAL support and bi-lingual teacher (I believe the first dedicated bi-lingual teacher in Glasgow if not Scotland--), who concentrated --but not exclusively on the early years, there were also plenty of Teaching assistants. Ds was used to up to 3 teachers/TAs in the classroom.

The SMT also all taught regularly (the depute head gave him 1:1 support for 6 weeks in P2 reading before we all agreed he just wasn't developmentally ready to read they were right and he's now, in S5, on course to get an A for his Higher English smile; the head took the "top" Maths group in P7)

RedScissors Sat 01-Apr-17 22:35:55

Ds was used to up to 3 teachers/TAs in the classroom.

I was working with a school recently who were down to 3 TAs for the whole school (roll of just under 200 AFAIK, deprived area).

NoLotteryWinYet Sat 01-Apr-17 22:39:38

So in essence the principles of cfe are good but it requires more staff to be done well, and that's where there is concern cfe is falling down. Do we know much about education staffing levels or cuts in Scotland?

NoLotteryWinYet Sat 01-Apr-17 22:40:14

3 TAs for just under 200 kids is shocking!

RedScissors Sat 01-Apr-17 22:41:05

I actually mistyped that- it was 300 kids.

DanyellasDonkey Sat 01-Apr-17 22:42:14

Nobody I know has anything good to say about CfE. We are lucky in that our HT and DHT have worked all the outcomes into a curriculum coverage document for each year so we know exactly what we have to teach. However in a less organised school I think it would be a shambles.

Most of my colleagues have continue to teach fairly formally in spite of its active learning proposals. I think in 10 years' time there will be lots of complaints that standards have slipped even further and those of us with years of experience who knew this would happen will say "We told you so"

NoLotteryWinYet Sat 01-Apr-17 22:45:22

red and donkey is your main view that there are insufficient staff and class numbers too high to do active learning, so whilst it's a good idea it's unwieldy in practice or do you feel more that you can get better results from other approaches?

RedScissors Sat 01-Apr-17 22:47:14

Do we know much about education staffing levels or cuts in Scotland?

Yes. Staffing levels are quite critical.

There has been a big boom in pupil numbers. This has been unfortunately timed with the retirement of a huge number of teachers (the 70s saw huge intakes and special recruitment schemes). However, there has been an increase in teachers resigning. Retention of new teachers is also decreasing. Many people are blaming it on the behaviour/ lack of support (see the point about mainstreaming) and paperwork.

In many councils, schools with falling rolls were closed or amalgamated into new builds about 10/15 years ago. This has also unfortunately timed itself because the school buildings are now at capacity.

Pay for supply teachers has been cut, so daily supply (e.g. if a teacher calls in sick) is nearly impossible to come by.

Council budgets have been affected by the freeze in council tax, which has in turned affected school budgets for essential resources. I think most teachers would bite your hand off for a box of Pritt Sticks at this time in the year.

TAs were also facing cuts. Retiring TAs weren't being replaced and there is currently no maternity cover (in my council at least).

What may change this is the Pupil Equity Fund money. That's a bit of an unknown quantity at this point in time.

RedScissors Sat 01-Apr-17 22:51:00

is your main view that there are insufficient staff and class numbers too high to do active learning, so whilst it's a good idea it's unwieldy in practice or do you feel more that you can get better results from other approaches?

Both.

I have to admit, I really love a class all quietly working away. I disagree with the so-called experts who claim that children work better when they talk. That child might, but what about the other 27 in the room?!

I see the benefits of active learning from time to time, but yes, unwieldy in daily practice imo.

NoLotteryWinYet Sat 01-Apr-17 22:55:04

Ah yes a false dichotomy! it's a worrying situation, very interesting to hear your views.

DanyellasDonkey Sat 01-Apr-17 22:58:36

Personally, active learning doesn't suit my or the majority of my colleagues' teaching style and I feel very unhappy about doing something I don't believe in, especially if it isn't for the benefit of the pupils.

Over the last few years we have had lots of children with challenging behaviour come into our school and no increase in PSA or ASN teaching allocations, This has meant that PSAs who would have previously worked in early years classes, now have to babysit pupils who cannot work in classes. Often I am all set up to do an activity that requires extra support (P2 class) and I'll discover that my PSA has been suddenly taken away as some kid has kicked off hmm

prettybird Sat 01-Apr-17 23:14:35

No idea what the current level of support is at ds' old primary (he's now in S5), so things may well have changed (school roll was about 300 by the time he left).

I know we (the Parent Council) had to fight hard to retain its EAL support when GCC did a consultation on it about 7 or 8 years ago. I believe it caused a bit of a stink at the council as it was very well argued and written if I say so myself wink (it wasn't just about our school - it was about best practice at schools across the city with EAL needs).

Just just clarify that ds didn't have 3 teachers/TAs all the time grin - it varied across the years (more often in the early years with the majority of his class non-English speakers) and during the day (eg when the depute and/or head supplemented the teaching for language or number time).

celtiethree Sat 01-Apr-17 23:35:15

I'm not a fan, the quality of teaching that my third DC was receiving in primary was so much lower than that of my eldest who is in S5. The real difference I noticed was in literacy, and the lack of consolidation from one year to the next in maths. I eventually gave up and DC3 now goes to a private school as I no longer had any faith in the primary.

TinfoilHattie Sun 02-Apr-17 08:16:10

I'm not a teacher but have three kids going through the system and am actively involved in school life through PTA etc. Also have many friends who are teachers.

Primary school appears to be coping well - haven't seen much difference to what my eldest did pre-CfE and what my youngest is doing now. Having said that, their school over the last two inspections got very high grades from Inspectors, and we are not in an area of deprivation - there are many childrne in school who don't have English as a first language but their parents are mostly here for jobs at the Uni or hospital doctors so English skills are not an issue. I am also seeing the same "topic" work done each year - they have been doing the Vikings in P2 since the year dot - so how much has changed I'm not sure. There was discussion last year about shaking up the topic work to fit in more with CfE and PTA funding some new resources but that was abandoned - too expensive. The only difference I've noticed is that the Head is totally indoctrinated into the CfE and trots out the "enthusiastic learners" and the other buzzwords whenever she can.

Secondary is a more mixed experience - I know that the local secondary delayed implementing the Nat 5s for a year because they were not ready and carried on with Standard Grade instead. From what I have seen from a child's experience the only difference is now rather than making choices at the end of S2 for standard, my son is now dropping to 9 subjects for S3, and will go down to 7 for S4 and exams. He's not happy because it means he has to suffer through another year of French, which he hates. The secondary must be doing OK though as every year they get kids into Oxbridge and competitive courses like medicine.

NoLotteryWinYet Sun 02-Apr-17 09:30:15

hard to know what to do as a parent about the lack of funding for TAs, resources, the PTA can't raise enough money to fund an extra TA, it'd be an ambitious goal to fund one extra TA, as well as all the other things requested. Based on previous experience too, a lot of parents won't donate for things they feel are core council responsibilities, even if there's no chance of the council funding appropriately.

Let's hope the council tax increase does something - do we have any ideas whether any of that money will go to education?

prettybird Sun 02-Apr-17 09:48:01

Don't know about primary schools but I do know that ds' secondary (high proportion of SIMD1 but like tinfoilhattie's children's school still has kids going to do medicine/law/Oxbridge etc most years) has been awarded a heft sum of money from the new attainment fund (which I believe has come from the extra that higher band council tax payers like me are having to pay).

Contrary to what was said on another thread, it is not being used "to fund headteachers' junkets" hmm but recruitment is already underway for additional support teachers.

DanyellasDonkey Sun 02-Apr-17 10:33:43

We have got quite a large amount out of this new funding (sorry can't remember what it's actually called) . Probably enough to fund 3/4 PSA posts or increase the hours of the existing ones. However I can see these people being used to work with the increasing amount of challenging children who continually disrupt the learning for the majority of pupils.

The kids I worry about are those who don't warrant ESF funding but are struggling to work without help, even when work is differentiated. In past years, they would have had help from PSAs but due to the explosion in challenging kids, they are going to slip through the net and go to secondary unable to cope sad

RedScissors Sun 02-Apr-17 11:32:37

We have got quite a large amount out of this new funding (sorry can't remember what it's actually called)

Pupil Equity Fund (PEF).

recruitment is already underway for additional support teachers.

The problem is finding suitably qualified candidates. I was speaking to someone on an interview panel recently and they were quite disappointed with the standard.

PSAs are also woefully underpaid and, in general, do not have the skill set necessary to work with these children.

As Danyella says, there are so many children in mainstream who are in the wrong place. With the inclusion agenda, special school places are deliberately being withheld.

I know a case of a child who destroyed countless classrooms and who verbally and physically assaulted staff daily. This started from day 1 in P1. It took until P5 before it was agreed to look for alternative provision. It was P6 before he was moved.

This is not uncommon. It's happening in schools all over Scotland, and the ones affected are the struggling but quiet ones.

NoLotteryWinYet Sun 02-Apr-17 11:49:58

That's exactly my sense from volunteering in primary, the no trouble ones are left to their own devices. I know ours got £15k from the PEF - does that even cover 1 TA?

prettybird Sun 02-Apr-17 11:51:01

I'm sure there must be difficulty in recruiting PSAs - we really don't value those that work with our children enough sad(I remember dh, chair of the out-of-school club having an argument with one of the other board members about giving a miniscule increase to the staff there, who all did a fabulous job for peanuts sad)

The recruitment I referred to was at a secondary and was for Support for Learning teachers. Being in the Central Belt and a well-regarded school, it doesn't usually have problems with recruitment. It's even recruited good new Physics, English, Maths, ASN (promoted post) and MFL teachers in the last year or so (mostly due to retirements) smile

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