Valuing a broad based S1 – S3 curriculum?

By engaging in the reverse engineering process I’ve started to throw up some issues which hadn’t been quite as obvious until you try to deal with some of the practical challenges presented by the guidance set out in A Curriculum for Excellence.

One of these emerging problems has been in relation to the S1 – S3 curriculum – which I’ve started to explore in Imagine S3.

Whilst there is a general recognition that the early years of secondary education are a period of educational stagnation and even regression for many students it can at least be given value by being linked to the certificated curriculum.  In fact such is the power of this “value through certification” that some schools in Scotland have introduced the certificated curriculum even earlier. The logic for this step is quite compelling and it certainly demonstrates that a school is dae’n sumthin” to address the fallow early years of secondary school.

Against this background schools are being asked to develop an S1 – S3 curriculum which is broad based and prepares students for the “senior phase of education which provides opportunities to obtain qualifications…” In my Imagine S3 post I am proposing to follow that guidance and that the only formal certification which will take place in these early years of secondary education will be in numeracy and literacy.

In my exemplar curriculum the focus in S1 – S3 would be upon an “employability portfolio” – which would include numeracy and literacy and a range of other evidence of the range of life, learning and work skills which the young person has developed up to that point. I know that for some the idea of employability as a focus for education is a step too far, but I’d ask that you go with me here as I think we can flesh out a definition of employability which would be compelling, inclusive, and above all, easily understood by young people, parents and the wider community. Nevertheless, it would remain a fact that the S1 – S3 curriculum would not be certificated – as we currently know it.

Now compare this against the school which has early certification who can point out that by the time young have completed S3 they have a a set of formal qualifications. So the question is-  would parents value something akin to what I have described as the S1 – S3 broad, employability focused curriculum which would provide their child with a set of skills to go forwards into the rest of the lives as learners and adults – or would they just like to have the comfort of certificates as concrete evidence of achievement?

Yet the question does not just pertain to parents – the leap that such shift would require in the thinking and practice of teachers themselves might present a barrier which in itself would undermine the success of any such change to the S1 – S3 curriculum.

The last group who need to engage with this question are the young people themselves.  Ironically, in many circumstances in schools, it can be the students who are the most conservative, i.e. they like what they know. Yet I believe that if they were to be actively involved in creating and shaping their curriculum – with a focus upon employability – schools could create something exciting, productive and well placed to build upon the primary school experiences and prepare for the senior phase of school and beyond.


Timetabling A Curriculum for Excellence – another evolving post

I’m going to try to explore some timetabling models to go alongside my Imagine posts – as with other posts this series it will evolve over the next few weeks

Block scheduling

What’s wrong with the six/seven period day

Block scheduling – good or bad?

The case against block scheduling

Flexible Modular scheduling

Modular scheduling: a personal view

Imagine S3 – an evolving post

I’ll develop a outline of an S3 curriculum here over the next three weeks. This post links with Imagine S6, Imagine S5, Imagine S4, Imagine S2 and Imagine S1, and Reverse Engineering

This will be a different kind of post as I will publish it as it goes, i.e. THIS POST IS NOT YET COMPLETE

I’m going to put down some markers here for S3 so as to give some shape to S4 and S5 and to allow me to reverse engineer the S1 and S2 curriculum.

The guidance for A Curriculum for Excellence for the S1 – S3 phase is as follows:

The period from S1 to S3 has a clear purpose: that all young people will have a strong platform for later learning and for successful transition to qualifications at the right level for them. The experiences and outcomes include opportunities at this stage, as at other stages, for challenge and success in different contexts, for example cultural, physical and technological. The curriculum continues to provide opportunities to adopt an active and healthy lifestyle and to plan for future life and careers.

As they continue to develop the four capacities, the curriculum should enable each young person to:

  • experience learning across a broad curriculum, covering science, languages, mathematics, social studies (including Scottish history); expressive arts, health and wellbeing, religious and moral education and technology
  • achieve stretching levels of literacy and numeracy
  • develop skills for learning and skills for life and skills for work
  • develop knowledge and understanding of society, Scottish contexts, history and culture and Scotland’s place in the world
  •  experience challenge and success


I’d go so far as to say one of the key purposes of the curriculum up to S3 is to make young people employable. Employability requires a person to have mastery of the above and and would also provide a coherence to the S1 – S3 curriculum which otherwise can seem a bit amorphous and open to those who would want to bring certification as we know it into the early years of secondary education.

There are many in education who would decry this as utilitarian and regressive.  Many teachers  see themselves as fulfilling a much higher function than simply making young people employable. 

I think it is possible to wrap up all of the experiences and outcomes described above as a subset of employability within a modern Scotland. So I’d like to propose that we use this as a focus and rallying point to give the S1 – S3 phase a distinctive character and purpose.

Assessable elements of the curriculum?

If employability is the driver, what might we want to know about children at the end of S3 which would indicate how successful we have been – and just how employable a young person might be?

A young person’s “employability portfolio” might include achievements in relation to:

Numeracy and Literacy – I’d be in favour of an external nation test  which would be used to validate the teachers’ judgement. There could be different levels of acheivement in these ares to ensure that there is sufficient “stretch”

Skills for Learning – including how to use a virtual learning environment without supervision or support; knowledge of their own learning strategies and preferences.

Skills for Work – punctuality; absence;

Skills for Life – politeness; courtesy; ability to working with others;

Curricular achievements across a broad curriculum  

Health and Well Being  – knowledge; personal health and fitness; attitudes; health behaviours; participation in physical activity.

In the Scottish Government’s Consultation of the Next Generation of Qualifications is points out that:

4. The OECD report recommended that “a Scottish Certificate of Education be developed to sanction completion of an approved programme of studies or training, whether in school, college or employment. This ‘graduation’ certificate would have defined minimum requirements to reflect the purposes of the new 3-18 curriculum but also substantial flexibility as to content, level and duration of studies to ensure accessibility”.

I wonder if we could create a Scottish Certificate of Education which captured something of the above but at the end of S3?  The only externally assessed (or validated) element fo this certificate would be numeracy and literacy – which would utilise the Scottish Certificate for Numeracy and the Scottish Certificate for Literacy see following proposal from Consultation of the Next Generation of Qualifications


New awards in literacy and in numeracy will be available at SCQF levels 3 to 5.Curriculum for Excellence brings a sustained focus on developing literacy and numeracy skills in our young people. To help strengthen this focus, the Scottish Government is proposing new separate awards to accredit young people’s literacy and numeracy skills – the Scottish Certificate for Literacy and the Scottish Certificate for Numeracy. The awards will be available at SCQF levels 3 to 5. The expectation is that all young people will be presented for these awards unless there are exceptional reasons for not doing so. The intention is also to ensure that the structure of these awards is flexible enough to make them available to adult learners.

Schools could be given freedom to create the content within their SCE course using the headings I set out in a e.g. skills for learning; skills for work; skills for life; curricular achievements; health and well being and, of course, numeracy and literacy.

A school’s S1 – S3 course would be submitted for external moderation to ensure that it met national standards but within that framework there would be considerable freedom.

In many ways this solution addresses some of the concerns I raised in Valuing a Broad Based  S1 – S3 Curriculum. I know this seems to run counter to the original concept of non-certification before S3 but I’m really seeing the certificate as being more akin to the kind of certification used in something like the Duke of Edinburgh Award, or John Muir Award, where it is more about accumulating achievements as opposed to any external exam. 

For the sake of argument I’m going to proceed with my imagination of the S – S6 Curriculum on this basis.

Imagine S4 – an evolving post

I’ll develop a outline of an S4 curriculum here over the next three weeks. This post links with Imagine S6, Imagine S5, Imagine S3, Imagine S2 and Imagine S1, and Reverse Engineering.

This will be a different kind of post as I will publish it as it goes, i.e. THIS POST IS NOT YET COMPLETE

Having begun to sketch out the S3 curriculum and the S6 curriculum the S4 curriculum is becoming a little clearer.

The key to envisaging the S4 Curriculum is to see it as part of the senior phase of secondary education – it is not an entity in itself and classes will be composed of students from all of the year groups within that senior phase.

In my Imagine S3 post I set out a possible end point for the early phase of secondary education to be a Scottish Certificate of Education which recognised a broad range of achievements, skills and attributes – which in turn established a very strong foundation for the certificated curriculum – but which also gave a clear indication as to the employability – at that stage – of an individual.

A Consultation on the Next Generation of National Qualifications sets out a the following:

8. Every young person should be able to move into the qualifications framework at a level that is appropriate to their needs. For example, vulnerable learners may focus primarily on Access qualifications in S4 and progress either laterally within an SCQF level or through other SCQF levels. The majority of young people should move into the new qualifications at SCQF level 4 or 5 in S4. Some will then be able to progress to Highers at a later point. The most able young people should be free to study for Highers from S4 (see Proposal 4).


Increased flexibility to better meet the needs of young people. Suggestions include:

  • studying National Qualifications over 18 months (or 2 years) as well as one year;
  • introducing a winter diet of examinations; and
  • encouraging the most able young people to bypass lower level qualifications and to study Highers from S4 onwards.

The following clearly sets out the shape of the senior curriculum:

Implications for curriculum planners

13. For young people leaving at the end of S4, the expectation is that they would be able to follow a maximum of five courses leading to qualifications during the year, in addition to taking the awards in literacy and in numeracy. Having demonstrated their literacy and numeracy skills through the new awards, some young people might choose not to take English and Mathematics at the same level, opting to concentrate on subjects in which they may achieve stronger results and on which they might build future learning at college or with an employer. Many young people, however, will still elect to take English and Mathematics at the same or higher levels.

This contrasts with the 8 or even 9 subjects that most students currently sit at the end of S4.  The reason being that it’s almost impossible to offer a mix of time blocks to students of the same year.

However, I don’t see this to be a great problem.  Many students look forward to being able to reduce the number of subjects for which they formally study for qualifications, as all too often the “extras” for which they have no great enthusiasm or aptitude do not enhance their employability nor their life chances.

 The fact that students will have reached a mimimum level of literacy and numeracy by the end of S4 will do away with the need for compulsory Maths and English in S4.  Students who wish to enhance their numeracy and literacy skills will have the oppportunity to take additional qualifications in these areas – which may or may not be developed through other subjects.

The Course Choice Process

The school offers all students a free choice of subjects – depending upon suitability. The traditional idea of a subject columns and balanced programmes of study will not be a requirement given the broad course that people have followed up to the end of S3. Students will choose courses leading to Highers, Scottish Certificates of Numeracy and Literacy; alternative lower levels of certified courses; work experience; Health and Well Being; and personal learning tutor time.

Timetabling the senior phase

The key to unlocking the senior phase of the curriculum will undoubtedly be the timetabling process. The great benefit which is constantly referred to in this model is the notion of the “two year higher” – contrasting with the current “two term dash” with all the associated problems of delivery, depth of learning and content coverage.

One of the ways in which the “two year higher” can be conceptualised is the traditional idea of a “class”, which stays together for two years and may be taught by the same teacher throughout. Although this seems to be the most sensible model in terms of continuity it places huge limitations upon the timetable.

The alternative – which I would prefer – is to consider the senior curriculum as a “unitised” matrix of units which can be taken at any time over the three year period.

To provide some exemplification of what I mean here I’ll consider how History might be offered in the senior phase in such a format. NB – I’ve used Intermediate level awards for ease of reference

The number of senior students wanting to take History in our model school is as follows:

S4 = 35 x  Higher; 17 x Intermediate 2/1;

S5 = 32 x Higher; 12 x Intermediate 2/1; 1 x Advanced Higher;

S6 = 12 x Higher; 13 x Advanced Higher

Total senior students = 122 (79 higher; 29 intermediate 2/1; 14 advanced higher)

Class organisation:

A = Higher Units 1 & 2 — 1 class 26 students (this class would be composed of students taking Higher History for the first time)

B = Higher Units 3 & 2 — 2 classes, 26 and 27 students (these classes would be composed of a significant number of students who are in their second year of studying Higher History)

C = Intermediate 2/1 —- 1 class, 29 students

D = Advanced Higher —- 1 class, 14 students

Rationale for class structure – Students taking History for the first time would join class A and complete Units 1 and 2 over their first year. Class B is primarily for those students who have already completed Units 1 and 2, some of the students in these classesd will be able to take the Higher exam at the Wiinter diet of exams.  Those in class B who were not ready would continue on unitl the May Diet of exams.

If class A and Class B were not timetabled against each other it would be possible for some students to complete the higher in a single year by switching between classes, e.g completing Units 1 and 2 in Class A and Unit 3 in class B.

Some choice options:

  • Five highers over two years
  • Some Highers over one year and Advanced Highers over two years (S5 and S6) – for exceptionally able students
  • A combination of Highers and lower level courses.
  • Lower level of courses linking to college and work experience
  • Various levels of the Scottish Certificate of Numeracy and Literacy – compulsory for those who have not reached minimum standards..
  • Some courses will be available on-line – especially those which extend curricular choice beyond the norm.
  • Work experience; volunteering; college courses. 

I’ll consider here three examples of students’ learning programmes;


Maria achieved her Scottish Certificate of Education at the end of S3 and gained level 5 in her Scottish Certificates of Literacy and Numeracy and literacy. In her curricular achievements she gained entry level to any Higher course on offer in S4.

Imagine S6 – an evolving post

Following on from my Reverse Engineering post here goes at my first draft at imagining an S6 curriculum.

This will be a different kind of post as I will publish it as it goes, i.e. THIS POST IS NOT YET COMPLETE

Purpose of Sixth Year

It will be important to see the purpose of sixth year as fitting within the overall purpose of A Curriculum for Excellence. Nevertheless, it will have some distinctive features which make it a worthwhile experience in it’s own right. It is also important to recognise that much of what students are offered in sixth year will be based upon the knowledge, skills and attitudes which  will have been developed in the preceding years.

There is a need to blur the line between school and higher education where a young person can gain additional qualifications which will enhance their employability, gain experiences which will enhance their employability, gain qualifications which will give them entry to university, and gain qualifications which allow them to follow develop areas of personal interest.

Some students will be combining vocational qualifications with serial work experience and college placement.

Exit points

Sixth year should not be seen as the most appropriate end point for every child who enters secondary education.  As described above it will have a strong academic emphasis from which students are likely to enter further or higher education. Leaving school before sixth year should be not be seen as an inferior route.


Sixth year students in East Lothian will become members of a sixth form campus -which will exist in a real and virtual sense.  The campus will include every secondary school in East Lothian, Queen Margaret University and Jewel and Esk Valley College and the community and locality within East Lothian. A student’s curriculum will be delivered within that campus. It will be important to conceptualise a student’s study programme to be very different from a traditional sixth year pupil’s timetable. 

Personalisation and Flexibility

The S4 – S6 phase should be considered as a single cohort as opposed to separate year groups. Students will have access to any course on offer in the senior phase and can construct their own study programme according to their needs and abilities.

A Programme of Study

A programme of study might be composed of a mix of the following:

  1. a  student may spend only a small part of their time in their base school;
  2. a student’s programme of study will extend beyond the normal confines of a school day and week;
  3. employment will form a part of their programme;
  4. courses might be delivered in a much more compressed period of time;
  5. many courses will be delivered through a virtual learning environment – some of which will be supported by workshops, seminars and weekly tutorials;
  6. baccalaureate courses will be a key element of the sixth year experience for many students. These courses will be delivered through the East Lothian Learning Campus.
  7. some students will undertake a formal internship with employers – perhaps for one or two days each week throughout the school year. These internships will be linked to preferred career routes.
  8. an alternative to, or in addition to work related internships, students may undertake formal voluntary service internships to support local community volunteer groups. There may some qualifications related to both of these internship experiences.

It might be possible for some students to engage in study for part of the year in another country by swapping with a “study partner”. Schools in other countries could be matched up with East Lothian Campus and students who are following similar courses could be linked together as “study partners”  – the academic year would be split inot three parts – the first term would involve the students corresponding and develpoing their link; the send term would involve one of the partners going to live and study with their partner; and the third term would involve this arrangement swapping over.

Some sixth year students may leave school at the end of December having sat their exams that month. This would give them a more significant  “gap” period before starting university.

School Responsibilities

Schools might have to rethink how they currently give responsibility to senior students, e.g prefects, etc. The change to “looking out” beyond the school to life opportunities beyond the school gates and school career might mean that the traditional responsibilities might be undertaken by younger students, e.g pre-S4.


A lessening in the sense of attachment that students have for their particular school. One of the most  popular aspects of a sixth year experience is the sense of attachment and belonging that students have for their particular year group and school. Yet this very attachment can possibly reduce the capacity of students to operate independently.  The solution might be to try to balance these two competing elements of experience.


Students only register at their classes – there is no school registratrion for S6 students.

Example Timetables

Here are three possible study programmes of sixth year students:


Maria gained five highers in S5 at Ross High School. She started her Higher courses in S4 and did not sit any exams below that level. She wants to study languages and law at university.

Her study programme is built around her Baccalaureate programme. She is spending one day a week working as an intern with an Edinburgh law company.  She has a study partner in Italy and she intends to spend the second term in Milan – she will maintain her studies via a VLE.  Her study partner will come back to Scotland for the third term. In addition to her Baccalaureate she is taking Higher Italian which is being taught by another teacher in East Lothian which she accesses via a video link with another East Lothian school (the six schools have matched timetables to allow such access).

Maria also attends Queen Margaret University for one a day a week to follow Baccalaureate courses and to experience university life.

Maria helps out in the school’s additional support needs class and participates in the East Lothian wide senior students’ health and well-being afternoon which offers an integrated and comprehensive programme of health and sprts related activities.  She meets her personal learning tutor at the school once a week in a one hour seminar session with fourteen other students.

She fulfills the four aspects of the curriculum as follows:

The ethos and life of the school as a community: Volunteering with ASN unit and representing the school at volleyball.

Curriculum areas and subjects: Higher Italian

Interdisciplinary projects and studies: Baccalaureate

Opportunities for personal acheivement: Internship; Bacc programme; County level representation at volleyball.


When Hannah entered S4 she planned to leave school after that year and selected five courses at the level below Higher. However, she did so well in S4 that she decided to try to gain enough qualifications to gain entry to university after S6. She chose to study three Highers over S5 and S6 and to try for one Advanced Higher over the same period in her favourite subject – PE.  Hannah wants to be a PE teacher. Her learning programme in S6 is dominated by her subject studies but she still manages to undertake a work placement with the local council’s Sport and Leisure Department.

All of Hannah’s Highers are taught in school. Her Advanced Higher class is taught at a neighbouring school which she has to travel to over the lunch break. She attends the local further education college on a Friday afternoon to take a Certificate in Sports Coaching.

On a Friday mornings she is working through a self study programme to improve her numeracy.  The university have stipulated that candidates must reach a minimum level in numeracy before they can gain entry.

She fulfills the four aspects of the curriculum as follows:

The ethos and life of the school as a community: Hannah does lunch duty twice a week and coahes the S2 Hockey team which she supervises on a saturday morning. She is also on the Dance Committee which organises all the various school dances

Curriculum areas and subjects: Higher English, Higher Business Management, Higher Art and Design and Advanced Higher PE.

Interdisciplinary projects and studies: Numeracy programme – one of the key parts of this assessment is a project in which she has to demonstrate a facility to use and apply numbers. Hannah is undertaking analysing a statistical analysis of game stats for her S2 Hockey team and a data review of their fitness levels.

Opportunities for personal achievement: Work Placement; Sports certificate; coaching S2; Hannah is a star of the school show and hopes to audition for a lead role in this years school production.


Toby has some learning difficulties which make him quite vulnerable.  He finds the school environment very secure and his parents did not want him to leave.  He would like to work in the building industry.

Toby did not reach the minimum levels of literacy or numeracy when he was assessed at the end of S3.  His learning programme in S4 and S5 focused upon improving these areas and he has now reached the minimum level in numeracy and surpassed that level in literacy.  Both Literacy and Numeracy feature as key parts of the employability programme which Toby has been working on for three years.  The employability programme has involved a three way partnership between the school, Jewel and Esk Valley College and a local building company.  Toby started long term work experience with this company in S3 and has now extended this to two days each week.  The company have placed him on a apprenticeship as a joiner.

More to follow………..










 Internship – Edinburgh

 Internship – Edinburgh

 Internship – Edinburgh


 QMU Bacc programme


 QMU Bacc programme

 QMU study


 Meet with personal learning tutor to review the week and to plan ahead.

 Higher Italian

 Health and Well Being AfternoonDance/Swimming


 Volunteering Helping  students with additional support needs

 Bacc programme – school based

 Higher Italian 


 Bacc programme – another school


 Home study

 part-time job



























  Work Placement 

Work Placement

 Work Placement



Higher English 

 Higher Business     Management


 Advanced Higher PE


 Meet with personal learning tutor to review the week and to plan ahead.

 Higher English

 Health and Well Being


Higher Art and Design 

 Higher Business Management

 Advanced Higher PE


Numeracy Programme 

 Higher Art and Design

 Attends College for Sports Coaching Certificate









 Work Placement

 Work placement

 Work Placement



Work Placement 

 Work Placement


 Work Placement


 Meet with personal learning tutor to review the week and to plan ahead.


 Health and Well Being Afternoon











Perhaps we do sometimes need to weigh the pig?

“You don’t fatten the pig by weighing it” An evocative phrase used by those who would rightly challenge the concept of over-assessment or too frequent external assessment or inspection. A Head Teacher’s Union leader even described the English Ofsted as the “Office of Pig weighing”. The use of the phrase has taken on a global currency as the following examples demonstrate: Australia; England; USA or see google.

Let me say at the outset that I am uncomfortable with this analogy – children are not pigs – anyway Chris Thorn does a much better critique of the concept than I ever could in his blog post from 2006.

But for the sake of argument let’s just accept the pig weighing analogy and use it to make a point.  The question I’m interested in is whether or not we need external assessment, or testing regimes, earlier than the certificated courses which young people will encounter in S4 and beyond. In the current regime we have National Tests for 5-14. These have undoubtedly had an effect on how, and what, teachers – particularly primary teachers – have taught over the last 20 years.

With the introduction of A Curriculum for Excellence there is a possibility that there will be no nationally recognised testing regime to take its place for children below S4.  Now I know many people see this as a good thing and at first glance it does seem appealing but I really wonder if such a situation provides sufficient leverage in the system to change the way in which we structure and deliver learning and teaching?

In my post on reverse engineering I pondered on the “trickle down” influence or leverage on the curriculum provided by examination requirements. Secondary teachers in Scotland have been encultured into a system which takes account of the “examinable syllabus”. What is it that makes us so confident that we can make literacy and numeracy the responsibility of all in S1 – S3 simply by appealing to the professionalism of teachers? 

My point here is that I feel we do need to introduce some form of summative assessment of literacy and numeracy at the end of S3.  I would suggest that the internal judgements of teachers are complemented by a external test which when combined with the internal assessment provides an accurate judgement about the a young person’s abilities at that time.  I believe the external assessment would fulfil a number of functions:

  1. Validate the judgement of the teachers
  2. Where there is a discrepancy between the internal and extrnal assessment it provides a means of providing an external baseline with which to provide a comparison.
  3. Provides a purpose and motivation for young people to improve their levels of literacy and numeracy.
  4. Provide a useful benchmark for schools to measure their progress.
  5. Provide a useful and validated measure of a young person’s abilities which can be used by parents and employers.
  6. Appeals to what secondary teachers “know”  – i.e. teaching to the test.

Before you leap up and down at that last sentence I believe that many great teachers do teach to the test but they do so in such a way that benefits their pupils. The challenge facing us would be to create a test for numeracy and literacy which made schools teach these core skills across all areas of the curriculum and sought to test them in these self-same contexts.

We certainly don’t want to see an “Office of Pig Weighing” in Scotland but I think I could confidently predict a positive change in the way in which we teach literacy and numeracy in our secondary schools if we grasped the opportunity to create an imaginative testing system which complemented and validated our internal assessments and for which every teacher in the school was accountable – not just the Maths and English teachers. 

Reverse Engineering A Curriculum for Excellence

One of the great criticisms of the Scottish secondary school curriculum is that it has been overly influenced by university entrance qualifications and that the subsequent “trickle down “ effect dominates the curriculum all the way down to S1 – despite the fact that less than 50% of all children go on to university.

It was whilst pondering this fact and struggling with my  attempts to sketch out a curriculum model for secondary schools that I wondered if I could turn this phenomenon to my advantage. My problem had been that I had followed what I thought to be the logical approach to developing a curriculum model by starting at the foundations and building from there, i.e. start at S1 and move on from there taking each year group in turn.  The problem I kept coming up against was that I seemed to create what might be termed stubs i.e. they tended to be end points in themselves and didn’t naturally lend themselves to a flowing curriculum.

If, in reality, most secondary school curriculum models are actually based upon a “trickle down” effect why not recognise the power of the reverse engineering of the curriculum and seek instead to build a different engine – which would still serve the needs of higher education – but which would also serve the needs of every young person and the needs of society.

As I’ve started to experiment with this approach it has become apparent that the building blocks and connections between different year group experiences have been much easier to fit together. Perhaps it’s because I can see where I am going as opposed to feeling my way into the dark, e.g. As opposed to “That’s the S1 curriculum finished – now what will the S2 look like?” but rather “OK if that’s S4 what do people need to have in place to allow them to get best value from that”

Over the course of a series of posts I intend to try to imagine what an S6 curriculum would look like and also describe a young person’s timetable of study. The more I talk to people it’s this kind of concrete detail which they are seeking – even if it’s only to disagree with. Of course the model created here will reflect the aspirations and official guidance relating to A Curriculum for Excellence as opposed to be a flight of personal fancy.

Having completed the S6 model I’ll then imagine the S5, then S4 and so on.  I hope people will comment and contribute to the exercise as I’d hope to eventually share it formally with my colleagues in schools as a series of curricular scenarios with which they can actively engage and in turn develop their own models.


Here’s tae us, wha’s like us? Well actually……….


I was approached last week by a producer for the BBC Radio 4 programme “Beyond Westminster” .  The programme was setting out to explore the generally accepted perception (at least in Scotland) that Scottish education is better than English education.

I don’t think I gave the response she was looking for when I expressed the opinion that we have much to learn from the education system in England and that we ignore practice South of the Border at our peril.

Unfortunately the programme was very disappointing as I felt it deliberately set out to provoke controversy – which is a pity as Sheena McDonald is one of my favourite presenters.  The panel was composed of Professor Brian Boyd; James Stanfield ; and a parent from the Black Isle. I thought Brian approached it in his usual thoughtful manner and recognised many strengths in the English system. The parent was also interesting, albeit that her perspective was confined to what she experiences in her own school – which is not necessarily representative of what happens elsewhere in Scotland. However, to pick up on an Olympic metaphor, James Stanfield never managed to get out of the shallow end of the pool!! 

I suppose in half and hour it’s only possible to scratch the surface of any issue – but this didn’t even get near the issue. There are so many good things about English education that could have been mentioned as being of interest to Scottish education but the debate was dominated by a single issue representation from James Stanfield who could not get beyond the need for more choice in the Scottish system.  As I’ve recently been exploring on this Learning Log there are many interesting features of the English system – particularly in relation to the local management of schools and their use of data but James Stanfield’s arguments lacked any depth nor did he have any capacity to cross reference his arguments to any other issues – a real missed opportunity!

Nevertheless, I hope to visit a couple of English local authorities in coming session to find out more about how they are encouraging schools to develop divergent systems.