AS a recently retired secondary school teacher, I was underwhelmed by the news that school literacy rates have again taken a dip (Education reform is now ‘imperative’ as literacy stalls, The National, May 10). The root problem is obvious. As Bill Clinton might have said: “It’s the curriculum, stupid!.”

All secondary teachers (I have no experience of primary teaching) are struggling under the weight of the badly thought-out, disastrously introduced, woolly, vague and amorphous Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). Teachers with decades of experience are drowning under a tsunami of bureaucratic educational doublespeak, much of which was badly written, often contradictory and almost impossible to clearly understand.

When we add to this trying to assess this heap of jumbled-up nonsense that is the new national and Higher exams, then we can go a long way towards explaining why many young teachers leave, don’t survive long or stick it out, but are unhappy in their jobs. It also helps to explain why hundreds of experienced and inspirational teachers are queuing up to find a way out.

CfE is so lacking in direction and the assessment procedures are so unintelligible that it is no wonder many teachers are at the end of their tether. I believe that changing the curriculum must only be done to improve the educational experiences of our young people and therefore provide an enhancement of their life opportunities. Put simply, CfE is not an improvement on what we had; on the contrary, it is nothing short of a shambles, and the argument that CfE needs time to “bed in” no longer holds water.

The embryonic CfE was conceived during the days of the Labour/LibDem coalition at Holyrood. Even then, many teachers voiced concerns. When the SNP came to power in 2007, they had the chance to nip the whole crazy idea in the bud. I bet they wish they had. As the years have passed, tens of millions of pounds have been thrown at this ill-conceived initiative.

The present Scottish Government’s attempts at reducing the assessment burden of the new exams and the extra funding they are providing is to be commended, but they have to realise they are not solving the root problem. The best way to improve Scottish education is to get rid of the reason for its current failures, and that reason is CfE.
Alan Carroll

I DO not always agree with Cat Boyd’s views nor her interpretation of social issues and was therefore expecting to read a negative and biased article in her piece on Catholic schools (The problem with Catholic schools is not sectarianism, The National, May 9).

I was pleased to find instead a disciplined and well-reasoned explanation of the way Catholic schools (probably other faith schools too) have been portrayed and to some extent vilified and most encouraged by her concise and analytical insight.

Congratulations to The National for covering a wide and interesting range of topics within your pages.
JF Davidson

CAT Boyd points out that Scotland’s “sectarian divide” was really anti-immigrant/anti-Irish racism. Interestingly, the first supporters of the descendants of the immigrants were Scottish nationalists.

In 1947, James E Handley said in his pioneering history The Irish In Modern Scotland: “Paradoxically, the one section of the community that seems on the whole to bear no ill-will against the immigrant stock is the Scottish Home Rule Party.

Handley points out that CM Grieve (Hugh MacDiarmid) welcomed the cultural influence of Catholic Christianity and the Irish as a cultural counter to Calvinism’s blight on the arts. Handley then quotes, approvingly, the SNP pioneer Oliver Brown: “These people are no longer to be reckoned as Irish except in origin. They are now an integral part of our national life, however much they may be rightly attached by sentiment to the country of their origin. It is now as absurd to describe a McGinty or a Reilly as necessarily Irish as to proclaim an Inglis must be English, a Fleming must be Belgian or a Wallace must be Welsh.” These writings show Scotland’s nationalism has always been progressive and democratic in nature.
Councillor Tom Johnston (SNP)
North Lanarkshire Council