Oui mais non

16 Jan

I popped along to an S2 parent’s information evening last night for an overview of subject choice for Sprog 1. Changes afoot for this year group are no more compulsory foreign language, science or social subject and the introduction of NQs in subjects such as Childcare, Construction, Finance, Uniformed Services and a couple of others that escape me they were so exciting. None of these new subjects being offered are compulsory but I was a bit concerned that it was intimated  it may become compulsory in the future to take at least one from the range on offer. I don’t think I’ll be the only totally farged off parent if a column containing these courses is made compulsory at the expense of modern languages, science and social subjects.

The biggest surprise was that this current crop of S2s will be the last to sit Standard Grades. I am  aware that a national consultation is currently taking place with regard to what will replace Standard Grades and Int1/2 but unfortunately I wasn’t armed with enough certainty that Int1/2 were definitely finishing too to raise the question of what the replacement for both these systems may be (nobody knows) and how they can possibly start delivering it in 2010 – but maybe these things don’t take as long to develop and implement as I think – or as GLOW (I have serious doubts as to my 12 and 13 year olds ever having GLOW logons before they leave school). I think the general feeling in the audience was that Int1 and Int2 would be adopted in place of Standard Grade and I don’t think the school were in any hurry to clear that misconception up.

sampleprepositionWith only 1 school year between Sprog 1 and Sprog 2 our family will be straddling the divide and I’m really not sure what next year will bring, but we were told that course selection would be “completely different”. One of my main concerns for Sprog 2 is that his will be the first year to suffer once the modern languages department is decimated when everyone in the year above him drops French. This isn’t guess work, a class of 33 children were asked last week if they would choose to study French and 32 said  “non”. Unlike his sister, Sprog 2 enjoys French and up until 8pm last night I envisaged him picking up Spanish or Italian alongside it when he came to choose his subjects. I now fear there won’t be anyone left at the school to teach these languages.

There have always been minority subjects that struggle to survive student choice. Classical Studies died a death long ago, Latin is no longer offered and German is already struggling. But there’s one subject that just refuses to die no matter how big a stink its carcass is giving off. Religious Education is in serious need of a DNR order. Year after year it appears as an assessable subject on the timetable and year after year not enough students pick it to form a class, so why do they waste 2 years of schooling with 2 periods a week allocated to RE? My daughter has 2 periods of Religious Ed, 2 of Social Ed, 2 of Home Economics and 2 of Technical, compared with ONE History, ONE Geography, ONE Modern Studies and ONE Art. This is not a balanced timetable. RE, SE and Physical Ed are the only mandatory subjects in Scottish schools right through to S6, but I can see no justification for RE and SE  taking up 4 periods of the S1/S2 week, together putting them on level pegging with English and Maths.

And as for PE? With 2 children at the school I only get Tuesday off when it comes to making sure PE kit is servicable. This year Sprog 1 gets PE on Wed/Fri and Sprog 2 Mon/Thu. A period is either 50 or 55 minutes long. How many professional brains does take to figure out that having these 2 periods on separate days isn’t a very smart thing to do? At the moment Sprog 1 has swimming on a Friday. 3o+ kids have to get to the bus, drive to the pool, change, swim, change again, get back on the bus and back to school in 50 minutes. Does not compute. I think they spend approximately 10 minutes in the water. Rugby is an 80 minute game. football 90 minutes, hockey 70 minutes, there are not 30+ trampolines in the building… why do they squeeze PE into a 50 minute lesson with 5-10 minutes included at each end for changing? Actually nevermind why – HOW do they do it?

I doubt there’s the will to change things but things  I’d like to see…

  • Geography, History and Modern Studies taught in blocks so the pupils get 3 periods of one subject a week for several weeks and can actually get a grasp on it – this would also allow more cross curricular projects – very ACfE.
  • Double PE – so obvious.
  • If we absolutely must teach RE and SE and one period of each a week is deemed sufficient for S3/S4 (8 subjects plus mandatory 3) and S5/S6 (5 subjects plus mandatory 3) then it is just mental giving them 2 periods of each in S1/S2 when they are sampling the full range of courses the school offers – which according to the depute head last night is 18 subjects.
  • Double Home Ec – I am disgusted that they are “cooking” little more than toast at school these days. Sprog 2’s recipe book for this term includes such delicacies as Welsh Rarebit, Cheese Toastie, Pitta Pizza (toasted pitta), and how to use a Breville sandwich maker – what a flipping JOKE. Give them a double period and more time to cook real food.
  • I would also like a return to differentiating  between Chemistry, Physics and Biology in S1 and S2 rather than the homogenous lump they teach now under the catch-all of “Science”. When the pupils are picking their subjects, if Sprog 2 is any indication (bearing in mind she won a Merit Prize for Science in S1), they’re not too clear where one subject starts and the other ends. I have downloaded arrangement documents from SQA so we can go over each subject with her and give her an overview of each course – I bet all parents have done that – yeah?

nqlogoThere are 5601 NQs that can be awarded – why don’t the SQA save their time developing 5601 new courses and just award each child it’s own named course award, an NQ in being “Fiona Cairns”, or “James McDonald”? At least that way they all get a qualification in what they are best at and one that’s infinitely more useful than, for example, Higher “Pig Husbandry: Indoor Breeding”, Int2 “Potato Roguing” or Int2 “Sports Officiating and Organising – Recreational: Inland Kyaking” (a complete waste of time compared with Int2 “Sports Officiating and Organising – Formal: Inland Kyaking” – if you ask me – it’s a wonder nobody ever does). I am not making these up.

So, less nappy changing and how to wash dishes in a hotel kitchen please and more History, French and Chemistry. All these new courses raise the question of who’s going to teach them and at first guess it looks like the Home Economics department are making a bid for school domination – this is the department that cannot spell caster sugar (castor) or Worcestershire Sauce (Worchester) and thinks loading up the Breville is cooking. Maybe prayer isn’t such a useless thing to teach them after all.

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