Education policy moving away from ‘whole child’ ethos of CfE, warn international advisers

Written by Tom Freeman on 26 July 2017 in News

John Swinney’s international council of advisers tell him to focus on helping teachers develop their practice and collaborate

International council of education advisers - First Minister's office

The Scottish Government’s education policies are at risk of moving away from the founding ethos of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), its International Council of Education Advisers has warned.

In a report for Education Secretary John Swinney, the council said the National Improvement Framework, which includes a focus on data and standardised testing, could weaken the holistic approach of CfE.

“The council was concerned that, in the drive to deliver clarity of purpose for all those involved in Scottish education, there was a risk that education policy was moving away from the “whole child” approach of CfE towards a more specific, measureable approach as required by the NIF,” the report said.


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The International Council of Education Advisers was established by John Swinney last year in the wake of the OECD’s report on Scottish education to provide perspective and advice on policy decisions.

The group is made up of educationalists who have influenced policy-making in the US, Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Malaysia, Australia and the UK.

Recommendations in the council’s new report include developing the method and practice of teaching, growing leadership capacity throughout schools, and encouraging more collaboration, which the council says is currently inconsistent.

The Northern Alliance, which comprises all the Aberdeenshire, Highland and island local authorities, was used by the council as an exemplar for what should be extended throughout the country.

Federations of schools with shared leadership should also be considered, the council said, while good collaboration could be incentivised using the pupil equity fund.

In February Swinney said he expected the council to challenge his reforms.

One of the advisers, Professor Andy Hargreaves of the Lynch School of Education in Boston, told an international conference in May there was evidence of standardised testing “actively causing ill-being”.

“Data isn’t a bad thing, evidence isn’t a bad thing… but data shouldn’t drive us. We should not be the driven, we should be the drivers. More testing means the testing replaces the judgement,” he said.

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