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.