The Great P1 Testing Stramash

As a football fan, and a native of Greenock, I always felt a great connection with the celebrated sports journalist and fellow Greenockian, Arthur Montford.  Famed for his bold checked sports jackets and enthusiasm for football, Arthur was elected Rector of the University of Glasgow when I was an undergraduate there.  His campaign was peppered by quotable quotes from his TV commentator’s lexicon: “Up go the heads”; “Disaster for Scotland”; “What a stramash”!  The latter has always been my favourite, being so descriptive of the hectic penalty box.

During the week, Arthur’s phrase came to mind as I read about the Reedy Report on P1 testing, the Cabinet Secretary’s response and the further response of interest and pressure groups.  The review by David Reedy, who was co-director of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust and both general secretary and president of the UK Literacy Association, followed upon a defeat for the Government in Parliament in September where opposition parties passed a motion calling on ministers to “halt” them for P1 pupils.

Personally, I am less concerned about having the tests as such (or not), although I do wonder what information additional to the class teacher’s knowledge of the pupils can be provided by them.  My experience of my own children going through P1 is that I have been blown away by the depth of the teachers’ knowledge and understanding of my children’s strengths, developing skill set and next steps to progress their learning.  In my opinion, there is too little professional trust in our system and too much accountability by measurement.  The logical end point from the latter is that the stuff that can be easily measured becomes the most important stuff, while other more empirical areas are given less emphasis.

The BBC Website tells me that, following the Reedy Report, Cabinet Secretary John Swinney observed that “some important issues remain to be addressed”, including over the purpose of collecting data at a national level and what it should be used for, calling for a “clear and irrefutable statement of the purposes and uses of data”.

I am very concerned about the “uses of data”. I fear that in the not too distant future, we shall see league tables of primary schools constructed by the media in the way that they are for SQA examination performance at National 5 and Higher.  God forbid that our primary colleagues, and schools, should be subjected to the same invidious sort of treatment as the secondaries receive with little reference to context, challenge and starting point; God forbid that the wonderfully, creative experiences provided in the primaries should become compromised by a perceived need to “improve the test results.”

Iain 14th June 2019

A thought provoking day in the capital

I responded positively to an invitation to attend Curriculum for Excellence 2.0 The Gaitherin’ on Saturday past in Edinburgh. It was described as an ‘unconference’ which was intriguing.  The focus was very much on the involvement of all the participants with limited input from facilitators Rowena Arshad, Neil McLennan and Robin Macpherson.

The event had high level aspirations.  It aimed to be “the starting point of a grass roots education revolution in Scotland, reforming Curriculum for Excellence aspirations into the next decade” and was aimed at “practitioners, researchers and policy makers interested in reforming Curriculum for Excellence to meet the high aspirations for Scotland’s education system.”

It was a wonderful day of thought, discussion and debate and the unconference format certainly worked.  It brought together people from many facets of the education system and I met many colleagues for the first time.  In the end, my feeling was that, in itself, Curriculum for Excellence has suffered in its implementation and certainly in the assessment approaches used as far as its stated aim to help “children and young people gain the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for life in the 21st century, including skills for learning, life and work.”  Around two dozen ideas to take forward were distilled from the day’s deliberations.  This will be done through a summary paper and EduMod events (https://www.summerhousemedia.com/edumod-programme/) at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

I suppose that everyone who attended and contributed will have left, like me, with a headful of questions swirling round and touchstones gleaned from the discussions.  I am thinking most deeply about the importance of values in the whole process. Values govern the beliefs that we have in our approach to life, how we respond to the organisations in which we work and the nature our contribution to society.

In the case of Curriculum for Excellence, if schools, and individuals working within them have a value system that leads them to sincerely believe in its principles and be committed to it as the means to prepare young people for success in 21stCentury Scotland then it will deliver for them.  

I wonder whether the values and beliefs at all levels within the Scottish Education system are well enough aligned with Curriculum for Excellence at the moment and whether there is enough commitment to its value to all young people as individuals?

Iain 

10thJune 2019

A new venture

As you are reading this, you have obviously found the web site! As part of what is on offer at Iain White Creative Leadership, I hope to comment on a regular basis through this blog on current happenings in leadership, education and society in general terms. Whatever is here will hopefully contribute to the general debate and give an idea of my views on particular issues.

I hope that you will be able to find the time to follow the blog.

Iain