Curriculum for Excellence – background

I’ve been doing some research about the “Curriculum for Excellence”

and what it might mean for us in East Lothian.

This weblog entry is simply a summary of some of the background infromation to enable readers understand my subsequent exploration of the area.

A Curriculum for Excellence

'A Curriculum for Excellence' provides explicit statements of the aims of education in Scotland, concepts which have long been implicit. In summary, the purposes of education are to enable all young people to become:

• successful learners
• confident individuals
• responsible citizens
• effective contributors.

The development of these capacities, attributes and capabilities lies at the heart of work on curriculum renewal.
'A Curriculum for Excellence' also established clear principles for curriculum design to provide a framework within which improvements can and should be made. The principles identified – challenges and enjoyment, breadth, progression, depth, personalisation and choice, coherence and relevance – will have different emphases at different stages and as each young person learns and develops.

The Purposes of the curriculum from 3-18

To enable all young people to become:
successful learners with
• enthusiasm and motivation for learning
• determination to reach high standards of achievement
• openess to new thinking and ideas
and able to
• use literacy, communication and numeracy skills
• use technology for learning
• think creatively and independently
• learn independently and as part of a group
• make reasoned evaluations
• link and apply different kinds of learning in new situations.

confident individuals with
• self respect
• a sense of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing
• secure values and beliefs
• ambition
and able to
• relate to others and manage themselves
• pursue a healthy and active lifestyle
• be self aware
• develop and communicate their own beliefs and view of the world
• live as independently as they can
• assess risk and take informed decisions
• achieve success in different areas of activity.

responsible citizens with
• respect for others
• commitment to participate responsibly in political, economic, social and cultural life
and able to
• develop knowledge and understanding of the world and Scotland's place in it
• understand different beliefs and cultures
• make informed choices and decisions
• evaluate environmental, scientific and technological issues
• develop informed, ethical views of complex issues.

effective contributors with
• an enterprising attitude
• resilience
• self-reliance
and able to
• communicate in different ways and in different settings
• work in partnership and in teams
• take the initiative and lead
• apply critical thinking in new contexts
• create and develop
• solve problems.

The Curriculum Review Group
proposed that it provides a template for a phased process of reform, the details of which are set out more fully in our response.

The outcomes we seek to achieve through this programme of reform will be:
• for the first time ever, a single curriculum 3-18, supported by a simple and effective structure of assessment and qualifications: this will allow the right pace and challenge for young people, particularly at critical points like the move from nursery to primary and from primary to secondary
• greater choice and opportunity, earlier, for young people, to help them realise their individual talents and to help close the opportunity gap by better engaging those who currently switch off from formal education too young
• more skills-for-work options for young people, robustly assessed and helping them to progress into further qualifications or work
• more space in the curriculum for work in depth, and to ensure that young people develop the literacy, numeracy and other essential skills and knowledge they will need for life and work
• young people achieving the broad outcomes that we look for from school education, both through subject teaching and more cross-subject activity
• more space for sport, music, dance, drama, art, learning about health, sustainable development and enterprise, and other activities that broaden the life experiences – and life chances – of young people

A Curriculum for Excellence gives us the opportunity to address important curricular issues which we know need to be tackled. We will therefore set in motion a programme of detailed, linked work to:

• have significantly decluttered the curriculum, particularly in key areas of primary, to free up more time for young people to achieve and to allow teachers the freedom to exercise judgement on appropriate learning for young people, by 2007
• have restructured the curriculum in key areas of early secondary, to provide for depth as well as breadth in learning, and to ensure that pupils can see that they are working towards clear outcomes, by 2007
• have introduced new skills-for-work courses for 14 to 16 year olds to broaden the range of educational experience for young people and ensure that they get appropriate recognition for achievements in developing work-related and other skills, by 2007
• have agreed by 2006 the future structure of assessment and qualifications to support learning up to age 16, including simplifying the connections between assessment 5-14, Standard Grade and the National Qualifications, for implementation thereafter
• have reformed the way we record the achievement of young people, to ensure that they can take on to the next stage of their lives a broad and rigorous record – not just of their academic work, but also of their vocational learning and their achievements beyond the traditional school curriculum, by 2007

The Scottish Executive are encouraging authorities and schools to think creatively about the curriculum on offer to children to achieve these purposes.

They have developed a starter kit which schools can use to consider how they approach the challenge.

I’ve copied it here:

Before considering future curricular developments, schools and other educational establishments will want to examine the extent to which present practices and policies match the values, purposes and principles of ‘A Curriculum for Excellence’.


“Wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity: the words which are inscribed on the mace in the Scottish Parliament have helped to define values for our democracy.”

Which values are important in your school or establishment?

Are these values mentioned explicitly in your aims, policies or other documents? If not, what scope is there for determining or re-affirming shared values?

In what ways are the values of your school or establishment demonstrated in practice?

Purposes of the Curriculum from 3-18

“Our aspiration for all children and for every young person is that they should be successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society and at work.”

Successful Learners

In what ways does your school or establishment enable all children and young people to:

• Use literacy, communication and numeracy skills?
• Use technology for learning?
• Think creatively and independently?
• Learn independently and as part of a group?
• Make reasoned evaluations?
• Link and apply different kinds of learning in new situations?

Confident Individuals

In what ways does your school or establishment enable all children and young people to:

• Relate to others and manage themselves?
• Pursue a healthy and active lifestyle?
• Be self aware?
• Develop and communicate their own beliefs and view of the world?
• Live as independently as they can?
• Assess risk and take informed decisions?
• Achieve success in different areas of activity?

Responsible Citizens

In what ways does your school or establishment enable all children and young people to:

• Develop knowledge and understanding of the world and Scotland’s place in it?
• Understand different beliefs and cultures
• Make informed choices and decisions
• Evaluate environmental, scientific and technological issues
• Develop informed, ethical views of complex issues

Effective Contributors

In what ways does your school or establishment enable all children and young people to:

• Communicate in different ways and in different settings?
• Work in partnership and teams?
• Take the initiative and lead
• Apply critical thinking in new contexts
• Create and develop
• Solve problems

Useful sources of information and evidence to help you answer these questions can be student feedback; pupil profiles; parents and their representative bodies; current school development plan; Standard and Quality reports; school data such as examination results and destination statistics; HMIE reports; education authority reviews; community partners; records of events such as shows, activities and celebrations.

In what ways do the following support the purposes in your school or establishment?

• The environment for learning?
• The choice of learning and teaching approaches
• The ways in which learning is organised?

Principles for Curriculum Design 3-18

“Although all should apply at any one stage, the principles will have different emphases as a young person learns and develops.”

Where does each of the following principles apply in the curriculum (including all planned experiences) currently offered at each stage in your school or establishment?

• Challenges and enjoyment
• Breadth
• Progression
• Depth
• Personalisation and choice
• Coherence
• Relevance

Are any of the above principles missing at any stage? In which ways could gaps be addressed?

Do any of these principles pose particular challenges for your school or establishment? How could these be addressed?

Flexibility in the Curriculum

Schools and other educational establishments have been able to employ a degree of flexibility in curricular innovation since 2001. The criteria for any innovation are:

• There should be clearly identified educational gain for pupils based on clear rationale and objectives and consistent with the national priorities
• There should be full consultation with stakeholders (including parents, teachers and pupils) and consensus before proposals are introduced; and
• Rigorous quality assurance arrangements should be in place to monitor and evaluate the proposals and their implementation against the objectives and the results of these evaluations should be made available to the key stakeholders; and
• There should be well-planned implementation using development plans and action plans
Circular 3/2001 SEED

If you have used these criteria to introduce more flexibility in your school or establishment, to what extent do the developments:
a) match each of the purposes?
b) align with the principles for curriculum design?

What changes, if any, would be required in the light of the values, purpose and principles of A Curriculum for Excellence?