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Munn And Dunning Committees

Volume 982: debated on Monday 31 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are his intentions towards the reports of the Munn and Dunning committees.

I have today published a paper, "The Munn and Dunning Reports: The Government's Development Programme", setting out my intentions towards the recommendations of the two committees. Copies have been placed in the Library.My paper outlines a programme of development work to establish the requirements of a revised curriculum and assessment system. The programme will begin immediately and will take a minimum of three years to complete. The results obtained should enable me to reach a decision in 1983 on whether to introduce new syllabus and assessment arrangements in certain subjects from 1984, leading to corresponding awards at foundation, general and credit levels in a national certificate from 1986. That decision will, of course, need to take account also of the public expenditure and other circumstances then prevailing.The programme reflects important principles. First, I consider it vital that all pupils should have the opportunity to realise their full potential. Differentiation into three syllabus levels, namely, foundation, general and credit, is, in my view, the best way to achieve this, but the programme will need to pay particular heed to establishing links between adjacent levels.Secondly, I consider that all pupils should be given worthwhile goals. Thus the programme will aim to elucidate some of the different issues involved in establishing assessment and certification arrangements which will enable pupils of all levels of ability to receive an appropriate level of award in a national certificate.Thirdly, I regard it as vital that the standards of the national examination system should not be compromised by any changes which may come to be made. The development programme will, accordingly, proceed on the basis that, at foundation level, syllabuses and assessment will contain both internal and external elements but that at the general and credit levels syllabuses and assessment will be mainly external in accordance with current O-grade practice. I do not consider that a move towards significant internal elements at the credit and general levels can be justified in terms of either the potential educational benefits or the need to maintain standards.Fourthly, new syllabuses and assessment arrangements cannot be developed outside the context of an agreed framework for the curriculum. I consider that the eight modes of study proposed by the Munn committee provide such a framework. I do not intend to stipulate a precise pattern for the curriculum which individual schools should adopt; it will be for education authorities and schools to establish the curriculum which, though based on the eight modes of study, best suits their particular circumstances and the needs of their pupils. The Government consider it essential that all pupils in the later stages of compulsory education should study English, mathematics and science.My Department will take the lead in the development work but will work in close consultation with local authorities, the Consultative Committee on the Curriculum and the Scottish Certificate of Education Examination Board. Other educational bodies and parents have a right to be kept in touch with what is happening and my Department will therefore publish progress reports from time to time. I shall undertake consultations where appropriate during the course of the programme, and the conclusions reached as a result of it will also be the subject of consultation prior to my taking the decisions on subsequent implementation.