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P1 pupils Forest and Sunny in class

Primary headteacher says we need to be ‘bold’ and ‘imaginative’ if Scotland is to implement CfE’s ‘developmentally age-appropriate curriculum’ into schools, which would ‘not only enhance children’s learning in literacy and numeracy, but also benefit health and wellbeing’.

A new culture change documentary by award-winning education filmmaker, Saskia Anley-McCallum, puts a kilt on the focus, looking at Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) at Early Level. It offers an insightful look behind one of the youngest school starting ages in the world.

On paper CfE has a profound understanding of child development, encouraging a play-based start for children under seven. Now We Are Six gets to grips with the countrywide failure to turn the play-based principles of CfE’s Early Level into practise over the last decade.

“I was told privately from teachers working in Scotland that CfE is virtually impossible to carry it out in mainstream primary schools,” says Anley-McCallum. “They cite parents fears around targets and safety concerns (complaints), a lack of consistent, ongoing teacher training and budget cuts squeezing out room for other activities that are critical for a healthy foundation in life. A lack of resources is also a major barrier: concrete playgrounds and classrooms set up for formal learning rather than play.

They would like to be outside more with the children offering free play but have to ensure their pupils ‘level up’ and reach government and local authority proscribed standards. They said they are gagged from speaking publicly and unable to share their concerns.”

For P1 teachers, the existence of SNSA means they have to spend much of each day teaching skills that neuroscientists, educators and health professionals recognise are developmentally inappropriate for a great many four- and five-year-olds; and tight school budgets mean headteachers have to prioritise what is most important.

“A teacher working in Edinburgh gave an example. For the last ten years she has taken 30 primary school pupils to the local park for PE. This has now been stopped for safety reasons and the school can’t afford an assistant to go with them to make it fit within the new safety protocol. All PE is now limited to the concrete playground. Nature connection time, and the free play which access to the park enabled, has been stopped.

“This kind of thing leaves the teachers feeling disempowered and disengaged and it has a profound impact on the quality of the children’s education.”

Gaining rare access into a Scottish P1 classroom, the film interviews Willie French, headteacher of a 900-pupil primary in Haddington, East Lothian. Speaking publicly for the first time about the changes that critically need to happen to bring about a shift in our ‘distorted’ cultural values around education, he says: “I have been in the game so long, so I feel happy to talk. It is not that children are not able, it is that they are not ready. I am not saying anything that teachers would find controversial. I’m just speaking common sense.”

For more photographs and information about the film, visit:
Contact: Sarah Miller, 0131 3373410 Ext 3 / for high res images.

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Edinburgh Steiner School in the following categories: Children & Teenagers, Women's Interest & Beauty, Environment & Nature, Education & Human Resources, for more information visit