Developing a rationale for implementing A Curriculum for Excellence

As part of my contribution to the ADES network for A Curriculum for Excellence I have been working with some colleagues to begin to explore a possible a rationale for its implementation across Scotland.

Perhaps any such rationale needs to takes its lead from the new HMIe inspection regime, which could be described as a heroic leap into a new world of dialogue, professional trust and engagement?

In such a world the starting point for professional development and curricular development needs to reorient itself from assumptions where it is implicit that teachers are resistant to change, need to be “fixed” and are essentially passive receivers of information.

My colleagues today were adamant that if we are to match the aspirations of ACfE then a similar transformation, as that demonstrated by HMIe, needs to take place in how we conceptualise the development of teachers’ professional craft and associated curricular content. The following rationale begins to set out some possible building blocks for such a transformation:

Outcome: Our implementation strategy will result in an improvement in the educational progression of Scottish children and young people. 

In other words ACfE and associated Continuous Professional Development will not be effective unless the above outcome can be demonstrated.  All too often in the past huge investments in curricular and professional development have not led to any positive impact on the  lives of children.

The implementation of A Curriculum for Excellence will be based upon the following assumptions:


  1. Teachers are professionals who want to make a positive difference to children’s lives;
  2. Where teachers are empowered to work together they can create outstanding learning environments for children and young people;
  3. Teachers have an intellectual commitment to developing knowledge about their craft;
  4. Teachers naturally want to talk and learn from each other about their practice;
  5. Teachers want to engage in dialogue about their own educational practice with a view to improving their craft.


  1. The school is a key unit of curricular creation and professional development.
  2. School leaders can create environments where teachers want to learn.
  3. Teams of teachers working collectively towards a common purpose can have a more positive impact upon practice than any other strategy.
  4. Parents relate best to their local school and communication about  ACfE should come through that route.


Where the curriculum is co-created between

Professional Development

  1. Scottish Teachers are amongst the world’s most highly qualified professionals and already have sophisticated skills sets and related knowledge.
  2. There is a place for directed learning but it will not be the dominant continuous professional development strategy.
  3. Teachers learn best when they are enabled to network and share ideas and resources with colleagues.
  4. Teachers

 Learning Communities



More to follow……………………








2 thoughts on “Developing a rationale for implementing A Curriculum for Excellence

  1. Your 5 assumptions about teachers are very exciting and in an ideal world they would all be there and for some teachers they are in place. However, key to number 2 about teachers being empowered to work together to create outstanding learning environments is that TIME is the essential resouce to allow this fusion of energies. It really requires quality dedicated time and can’t be done at the end of a working day.

    I also wonder about teachers creating learning environments FOR young people. What is now required is for teachers to adopt a more participative approach and work WITH young people. This may be what you have in mind when you say the curriculum is co-created between professionals and learning communities. I think we are moving in this direction but a fundamental change of approach is still required amongst us teachers that stops us doing for young folk.

    Finally, whereas all teachers embrace practical discussions about teaching, there is a pretty strong resistance amongst many teachers to developing intellectual understanding about their craft. This is another challenge to overcome. For some, they’ve got by without it and there is a belief that academics/researchers/ thinkers are disconnected from the classroom and therefore what they have to say holds little validity. For others, there is a reluctance to engage in intellectual discussion when it’s hard enough to just get through the daily requirements of the job.

    Interestingly, the same teachers who said, “Stop the prescribed curriculum, it’s killing learning,” are the teachers who are now saying, “Why can’t somebody just do this for us and tell us what we’re to do? Why are we all ‘re-inventing’ the wheel?'” I don’t exclude myself from that tempting though lazy thinking at times.

    Basic attitudinal changes are required amongst us as teachers at this early stage of the thinking about a radical change of curriculum. And serious answers to freeing TIME for us to create this new learning environment are required by the Government, ADES and others.

  2. An interesting and thought provoking post. I teach creativity everyday, through my D&T subjects, but worry that the ‘system’ will still stifle creative thinking skills in young people. I am teaching the next generation of Joiners, Engineers, Architects and Designers. I am aspiratianal and expectant of pupils, every period. But are school cultures ? Indeed some pupils produce such high quality work that they inspire me to teach better.

    The media, games and society is so negative and influential that teachers at the chalkface, yes I still use chalk for sketching and drawing, are up against it. Although some teachers do engage in dialogue, the systems and culture cosntraints sometimes disengage this. It is a lonely job with many demands that, at times, seems impossible. As the previous comment states, time is a major issue.

    Especially after the McCrone changes to Depts into Faculties and loss of ownership of the curriculum by some PTs. Not all Councils have embraced the Capacites and development such as GLOW. Some councils have no ACE policy. It will indeed be an interesting few years ahead. The first few HMI reports under the new system will be an interesting and concise read.

    Back to prelim marking………

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