Tommy Castles told the union’s annual general meeting in Perth last week that pupils, teachers and the system itself were under mounting strain.
He said: “On Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), I’ll quote Sinatra. ‘Flying high in April shot down in May.’ We spend up to 10 years implementing CfE and then after a half-hour speech made by a politician to a group of academics it is open season on us and the CfE.”
He was referring to a recent speech by education secretary Angela Constance, in which she admitted to major problems in the system. First minister Nicola Sturgeon has also suggested more testing could be reintroduced, particularly at primary schools.
Mr Castles said: “Where does this assumption come from that seemingly all assessment stopped on day one of CfE? Schools continue to assess and in part do this by testing.
“Proper assessment should be relevant, manageable and inform the learning process. We cannot go back to the testing regime of 5 to 14 which did not inform the learning process but created a target-driven culture which corrupted the learning process.”
Mr Castles also said CfE itself was still “one of our main drivers of workload” and had failed to bring about a decluttering of the curriculum as intended.
“If you want to see the deep learning the CfE promised then declutter the curriculum. If you want more time spent on ‘the basics’, declutter the curriculum. In secondary schools, the main workload driver is the National Qualifications.”
Last year the process was a “nightmare for all involved”, including teachers, pupils and parents, he said.
At the request of the Holyrood government, a team from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is in Scotland evaluating the curricular changes and how they were handled.
The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) has also been critical of the process, telling the OECD in a letter: “We would be pleased to discuss what we regard as profound weaknesses in the strategic thinking and action associated with the implementation of CfE.”