C: Strategy and Policy in Relation to Practice
The Curriculum for Excellence is a National strategy/policy that informed my practice and influenced the way you work. In the text I critically analyse its usefulness.
Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) aims to transform Scottish Education by providing a coherent/flexible/enriched National Curriculum for 3-18 years. CfE was introduced in primary education in 2009 and affects the first S4 secondary examinations in 2013. Such extensive reform provides opportunity to ensure a clear progression of attributes and skills to raise achievement in senior examinations and ensure all learners are better prepared for learning, life and work.
I focus on the influence of the CfE strategy and Lifelong-Skills in my practice. Lifelong-skills are personal and learning skills enabling individuals to meet the 4 capacities (successful learners/confident individuals/responsible citizens/effective contributors) needed to reach their full-potential. With dance as a vocational subject, learners develop 5-essential skills for lifelong-learning. These life-skills include; literacy and numeracy; personal and learning, employability, health and well-being and 5-core skills (communication/problem-solving/information technology/team-working).
I believe with low economy and high unemployment, learners with a wider range of desirable skills will be more employable increasing productivity in Scotland. Implementation of such extensive changes in a short period has pressurised and concerned many practitioners including myself, especially as teaching has begun before guidelines are complete. If implemented correctly I feel that learning skills from age 3-18 provides opportunity to develop skills earlier in education, consolidate them through a coherent primary-secondary transition and secure higher-quality skills at examination.
By offering a Broad-General-Education (BGE) learners have opportunity to learn similar life-skills in a range of subjects, allowing them to transfer the best skill for a given task. Cross-curricular activities and collaborative tasks within departments enable teachers to combine teaching styles and develop coherent resources to improve the learner’s experience. I observe where there are close links between The Performing Arts (drama/music/dance) it has enhanced examination performance as learners use skills in the 3 subject areas. I feel practitioners have been challenged by the Scottish Education Department due to the timescale given to plan the teaching of vocational skills and additionally incorporate skills-for-life tasks. Course contents were only finalised at the end of the last academic year and assessment strategies are still in draft form.
CfE provides more flexibility within each subject. I can select content that meets learner’s needs in local circumstances whilst still achieving objectives. Learners will be given opportunity to complete qualifications over one year or bypass qualifications if more-able. I feel this will result in loss of basic understanding. To compensate, I must cover key points in advanced classes at the expense of course content.
In line with introduction of vocational skills, Dance is included as a compulsory activity in primary school PE. This should allow me to progress P7-S1 learners with skills at National level and consequently work towards Higher/Advanced level. Learners already involved in health initiatives will develop the secondary community by continued involvement.
In Primary schools, progression in skills is described in ‘Experiences and Outcomes’ allowing teachers to map progress through the levels. These objectives are broad and do not explain how learners should address lifelong-skills during dance. Teachers who lack dance training feel unprepared and lacking ideas to develop skills. This has delayed progression through the Experiences and lost engagement of more-able learners.
I suggest basic dance training would allow primary-practitioners to teach movements in a creative way that promotes the use of lifelong-learning skills. As part of the primary-secondary transition programme, I organised workshops in collaboration with primary/secondary schools to promote Health and Wellbeing initiatives. I observed that learners reproduced set movements and had high levels of natural creativity. I used a theme rather than teaching set movements to develop a range of skills and developed this with techniques, levels and dynamics which continued the theme. To make practice relevant I asked children to work together in groups and evaluate to improve their practice. This ensured lifelong-learning tasks linking with school initiatives. Primary teachers were more confident after sharing practice. I feel the workshop allowed me to understand the primary skill set. Repeating workshops biannually would ensure collegiate practice.
In secondary schools dance will become an independent expressive arts subject within CfE. I believe removing Dance from a full PE syllabus reduces pressure on staff who expressed a lack confidence in teaching creative/expressive skills. I feel learners achieved the learning objectives through rote learning routines from the internet/CPD workshops and there was little skill-development or self-expression.
Dance as a Performing Art will require specialists with a dance background to ensure learners create/observe/perform dances. I feel many Secondary schools remain disinterested in the implementation of such an independent dance course despite learner demand. Teacher training course PGDE: Dance has not been established. I have unique qualifications, with dance teacher training and PGDE: Biology which should make me suited to the post. However, I have been strongly discouraged by senior management due lack of funding to support part/full-time employment, my lack of availability during the school timetable and lack of supporting trained practitioners. Schools tend to bring in outside agencies (Y-dance) temporarily as they initially provide free tuition. In the few schools where specialist dance practitioners have been permanently employed within the curriculum, quality dance experience has provided learners with greater quality of dance technique, artistry and choreography skills.
National 5 Dance is the first full academic dance course for 13-15 years. It measures technical dance standards with written and practical assessment. I feel the ability for teachers within National courses to select two dance genres to meet the background and skills of learners will allow this course to be successfully implemented throughout Scotland.
I have been involved in preparatory stages of National 5 with KA Leisure, as a pilot in the community or schools. This has provided incite to the planning needed to target learners. I have drafted exercises/travelling/routine/choreography skills and teaching plans for the technical Jazz and contemporary units. To progress skills-for-life I included tasks for 5-learning styles/paired observations/written evaluations/research/discussions/ICT-presentations and employability-skills.
I believe National 5 provides learners with opportunities to continue to acquire and develop the four capacities and skills for learning/life/work. I feel skills including group work and leadership will be valued training in any further career. The evaluation styled assessment means children must use of higher-order skills, reflect and identify next steps. I feel to improve employment skills learners must use technology to research artists and choreography programmes to investigate movement patterns. I think the challenge will be ensuring dancers learn lifelong-skills without compromising technique/creativity or exam work.
With staffing in place the National Curriculum will provide a vocational experience of skills required to perform technique, choreography and develop appreciation of dance artistry using skill-for-life. I feel that as dance is included from 3-18 years the technical standard will rise significantly.
The Scottish Government (2007) Skills for Scotland: A lifelong skills strategy
Scottish Qualifications Authority (2013) National 5 Dance Course Support Notes: Unit Support Notes for Dance: Technical Skills (National 5) Unit
Youth Dance England (2010) Young People’s Dance: A ten year vision
Blanche R (2007) Delivering Dance in the Curriculum for Excellence. Blanche Policy Solutions
Saavedra AR and Opfer V D (2012) Learning 21st-century skills requires 21st-century teaching
Claxton G & Lucas B (2009) School as a foundation for lifelong learning: The implications of a lifelong learning perspective for the re-imaging of school age education. National Institute of Adult Continuing Education