Curriculum for Excellence Focus Group Report January 2011

Focus group for parents of S1 and S2 children on the Curriculum for Excellence

Radisson Hotel, ed 301 Argyle Street Glasgow G2 8DL

Introduction

This was the first of a series of workshops to gain insights from parents on current issues.  The focus was on the current experience of Curriculum for Excellence.  It was attended by parents from 4 local authority areas with children in S1 and/or S2.  Most of these parents had children at both primary and secondary schools.

Key points

Positive feedback

There was genuine enthusiasm from many parents about the potential of Curriculum for Excellence.  This derived mainly from their experience to date in Primary Schools and we heard some very positive stories about the difference that CfE had made to the experience of children in primary.

Those parents who had been well informed by their Secondary School were positive about CfE, buy viagra and were confident in their school’s readiness to implement it and the benefits that it would bring their children.

We heard stories about schools (mostly at primary level, prostate but also at secondary) which are thoroughly embracing the spirit and purpose of the changes – and of individual teachers who were fully realising the potential it offered to provide children with appealing learning experiences.

“It’s a more practical approach” to teaching and enables use of technology and games in learning.  One parent gave an example of a temporary teacher whose lesson involving online videos around drink driving left her child “so enthused”. Some parents were able to offer examples of fun learning sessions that did not feel like lessons to the children.

Uncertainty and anxiety

However, more parents were anxious and confused: “I am totally confused”; “There is still a lot of uncertainty”; “We are being blown around like tumbleweed”; “Will my daughter be taught everything she needs for these new exams?”.

We heard examples of parents not confident about what CfE meant for their child in their school – and also of incorrect information or interpretation about what CfE meant nationally.  Some parents felt that their schools gave the impression of being “tentative” about CfE – what to do and what it might mean.

It was clear that some teachers (and possibly some head teachers) are not yet embracing the spirit of CfE yet.  Some were felt to be actively resistant.

The risk was identified that schools may not fully realise the potential of CfE or follow its spirit if they feel they will continue to be judged solely on the current exam pass figures.

Effective communication

It is clearly possible for schools to communicate clearly to parents the spirit, purpose and practical implications and benefits of CfE, and we heard stories of how they had done this.

Some parents were clear about some of the benefits of CfE at Secondary:  eg allowing outcomes for learners who might not being looking at getting qualifications and allowing a mix of vocational and academic learning.

Many schools are not communicating to parents what they are or will be doing differently and what children/parents should expect.  This became particularly important at times when CfE was significantly different from past practice (eg the maintenance of a broad general education through to the end of S3 – so no specialisation at S3).

The need for effective communication was particularly important for this group of parents.  In the past parents with older children have helped parents with younger children based on their experience – but with CfE’s introduction “this time it’s new for everyone”.

Parents wanted to understand their child’s learner journeys better and the stages within these so that they can support their child effectively.

Although there was clearly a lot of information available at the national level (although spread across a number of websites) what parents appeared to value most was information about their school and the experience of their child. “Schools are still not getting information to parents”:  “Sometimes I think they [i.e. schools] don’t know the details”.

A number of parents stressed that they were hoping to see the negative press coverage countered with positive advertising/media coverage at a national level.