A Curriculum for Excellence provides us with a singular opportunity to radically transform our secondary school curriculum. It seems to be taken as a fact in education that change should be something that evolves over time “Evolution not revolution” – I’ve used the term myself on many occasions. But there are times when evolution just means more of the same – it’s safe, conservative and often results in no change taking place at all.
So here are 33 ideas for the secondary school curriculum, some of which might not be revolutionary in themselves, but taken collectively would certainly constitute a revolution:
1. Children and Young People will take tests and exams when they are ready - not because of the year group to which they belong.
2. The majority of learning will not be delivered in year group blocks, i.e. not age specific. Students will access learning opportunities as a consequence of prior learning.
3. There will be significant opportunities for young people to follow areas of personal interest during the school week.
4. Home and school learning will be considered to be of equivalent value and be reflected in the learning programmes developed by each young person.
5. Each young person will have a unique learning programme (timetable) which will include home and school learning in it’s widest sense.
6. Supplementary courses (delivered in the evening) will be available for parents to enable them to support their child’s learning.
7. Parents will be encouraged to “shadow” their child’s learning at any time they might be available.
8. Teachers will have personal timetables/contracts which will enable them to work from home – supporting online learning; at school during the day - supporting Learning Teams, delivering courses, and supporting core activities; at school during the evening - delivering courses and supporting core activities.
9. We will develop a “Learning Licence” model of progressive courses where children and young people “learn how to learn” for which they will receive accreditation.
10. Each child and young person will be part of a Learning Team (20 members), which will represent a cross-section of ages. Each Learning Team will be supported and facilitated by a teacher who will help guide them in their progress through their own curriculum. Learning Team’s will meet for one hour each day and will also encourage and enable peer coaching.
11. Young people over the age of 14 can apply for up to one day work experience which can be paid or unpaid employment.
12. Young people over the age of 16 need only attend the courses they are following – they can apply for up to two days work experience which can be paid or unpaid employment.
13. We will break the traditional inter-locking and restrictive nature of the timetable by ensuring that teaching staff spend the majority of their teaching time working with a “horizontal” level of work.
14. Young people over the age of 16 may devise their own curriculum by accessing courses available at their own school, other schools, further education and higher education institiutions learning and on-line learning environments.
15. Children and young people will be progressively taught, from an early age, how to make the best use of virtual learning environments.
16. All courses and materials will be made available on-line via GLOW.
17. Schools can use voluntary mentors who – following appropriate disclosure – can support the independent learning of students.
18. The maximum size of any Learning Group will be 100 learners, e.g. the traditional year group; or house group would be too big. It will be possible to belong to a “vertical” and “horizontal” Learning Group. Teachers and other members of staff will be associated with a Learning Group
19. All pupil support staff (including guidance staff ) should be focused upon the needs of children with additional support for learning needs. All other children and young people should be supported by their Learning Team. PSE will be embedded in the curriculum.
20. The learning needs and curriculum for a group of young people will be delivered by a Learning Team of teachers and support staff.
21. All secondary schools will adopt a common structure for the school day to enable shared on-line learning to take place and for common timetabling to be established for some subjects.
22. We will create an East Lothian Learning Campus where children and young people can access learning suited to their needs regardless of geographic location.
23. We will form a strategic partnership with further and higher education institutions to offer distance learning and on-site courses.
24. Some courses for senior students will be delivered in the evening.
25. We will seek to double the current range of certificated courses available to young people in East Lothian – many of which will have a vocational focus.
26. We will offer a wide range of learning opportunities for adults to access during the school day and in the evening.
27. We will work with local employers to support modern apprenticeships where young people can access learning and training.
28. We will develop specialisms at all of our secondary schools which will enable some young people to focus their education on particular attributes which they are seeking to develop.
29. All learners will have their own personal computer with wifi capacity which they can use at home and at school to access their learning.
30. Teachers will be members of staff of the East Lothian Learning Campus and can be deployed in any location with their agreement.
31. All young people must achieve Level E in Reading, Writing and Maths by the age of 14 – unless they have specific learning needs – their curriculum would be modified to enable additional time in these areas to facilitate learning
32. Schools will develop and promote their identity through a strong emphasis upon wider achievements such as music, creative arts, performing arts, sport, community volunteering, local politics, outdoor education, community leadership – these will be referred to as “core activities”
33. There will be no ability groupings for any classes, although differentiation within classes will be encouraged.