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Why more flexible learning routes could improve behaviour

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, Scotland stands at a crossroads, poised to redefine its approach to schooling. The call for reform envisages a system that nurtures students’ passions, fosters autonomy and cultivates a culture of academic excellence.

At the heart of this transformation lies a fundamental shift: the from age 14 onwards.

According to , instances of disruptive behaviour and disengagement are prevalent, posing significant challenges to the learning environment.

The highlighted the pressing need for innovative solutions to address these issues effectively. Policy outlined by emphasises the importance of creating a supportive framework that caters to students’ diverse interests and needs.

Age 14 is a crucial juncture

At 14, students have typically developed distinct interests spanning science, technology, engineering and maths, humanities or practical disciplines. It is at this crucial juncture that they should be granted the autonomy to tailor their educational journey accordingly.

Instead of adhering to a rigid curriculum, students should have the freedom to choose subjects aligned with their passions and aspirations.

Under the proposed paradigm, attending school would be purpose-driven. Students would only be required to attend classes for subjects they have chosen, whether in person or online. This flexibility accommodates varying learning preferences and promotes a conducive learning environment.

Moreover, students should have the liberty to determine the pace and timing of assessments, empowering them to take ownership of their learning process.

By relinquishing the one-size-fits-all approach, educators can unlock the full potential of every student, fostering intrinsic motivation and a sense of responsibility.

Embracing a blended learning model that combines online and in-person instruction would ensure accessibility and adaptability. This approach caters to diverse learning needs while harnessing the benefits of technological advancements.

Reducing disruptive behaviour

Behaviour management is integral to a conducive learning environment. By aligning the curriculum with students’ interests, instances of disruptive behaviour are likely to decrease significantly. When students are engaged in subjects they are passionate about, motivation naturally follows, leading to improved behaviour and academic performance.

Attempting to compel students to engage in subjects they have no interest in is a futile endeavour bound to yield tension and conflict. The outdated notion of a rigid school structure contradicts the principles of the , which emphasises the importance of respecting children’s autonomy and agency.

Literacy and numeracy remain foundational skills essential for navigating the complexities of the modern world. Hence, mandatory instruction in these areas up until the age of 14 ensures a solid educational foundation. Beyond that, students who wish to continue honing these skills can do so through tailored arrangements.

Instilling maturity and responsibility in students

Adopting a more collegiate approach for S4 students onwards mirrors the transition to higher education or vocational training. This shift not only prepares students for the next phase of their academic journey but also instils a sense of maturity and responsibility.

The disconnect between exacerbates issues of disengagement and underperformance. By entrusting students with agency over their learning, educators can bridge this gap, fostering a sense of purpose and relevance.

In conclusion, the time has come for Scotland to embark on a bold educational revolution. By granting students the autonomy to shape their learning journey from the age of 14 onwards, we can pave the way for a more inclusive, adaptive and empowering educational system.

Let us seize this opportunity to cultivate a generation of lifelong learners who are driven by passion, curiosity and a thirst for knowledge.

Ed Carlin is a depute headteacher working in a secondary in the North East of Scotland

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