Curriculum for Excellence 2020-2021 - OECD review: initial evidence pack

Initial evidence base for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) independent review of Curriculum for Excellence, developed by the Scottish Government, to provide the OECD with contextual information and evidence on the Scottish education system, in advance of their research and engagement work.

Section 3: Key Facts About Curriculum For Excellence Policy And Implementation

3.1 Information About The Vision Of Curriculum For Excellence (CfE

This image shows the Refreshed Narrative for Scotland's Curriculum, published in September 2019 

The image shows the Refreshed Narrative for Scotland’s Curriculum, published in September 2019

The initial statement setting out the vision and intentions of Curriculum for Excellence was published in 2004.  A timeline of the development of subsequent advice is included at Annex A for reference.

Following the OECD 2015 review recommendation to 'Create a new narrative for CfE' in September 2019 a refreshed narrative for Scotland's curriculum, which set CfE in the current context, was published in both English and Gaelic.

Scotland's curriculum – Curriculum for Excellence – helps our children  and young people gain the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for life in the 21st century. At its centre are four fundamental capacities – enabling all young people to become: successful learners; confident individuals; effective contributors; and responsible citizens. These capacities reflect and recognise the lifelong nature of education and learning. They: 

  • recognise the need for all children and young people to know themselves as individuals and to develop their relationships with others, in families and in communities
  • recognise the knowledge, skills and attributes that children and young people need to acquire to thrive in our interconnected, digital and rapidly changing world
  • enable children and young people to be democratic citizens and active shapers of that world. 

As part of their learner journey, all children and young people in Scotland are entitled to experience a coherent curriculum from 3 to 18, in order that they have the opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to adapt, think critically and flourish in today's world. 

Curriculum is defined as the totality of all that is planned for children and young people from early learning and childcare, through school and beyond. That totality can be planned for and experienced by learners across four contexts: the ethos and life of the school as a community; opportunities for personal achievement; interdisciplinary learning; and curriculum areas and subjects. Individual settings and practitioners are empowered to make the decisions needed to provide a coherent, flexible and enriched curriculum that is adaptable and responsive to the diverse needs of individual learners and which reflects the uniqueness of their communities. 

Children and young people's rights and entitlements are central to Scotland's curriculum and every child and young person is entitled to experience: 

  • a curriculum which is coherent from 3 to 18
  • a broad general education, including well planned experiences and outcomes across all the curriculum areas from early years through to S3. This includes understanding the world, Scotland's place in it and the environment, referred to as Learning for Sustainability
  • a Senior Phase after S3, which provides opportunities to attain and achieve, including to study for qualifications, awards and other planned activities to develop the four capacities. 
  • opportunities for developing skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work
  • opportunities to maximise their individual potential, benefitting from appropriate personal support and challenge 
  • support to help them move into positive and sustained destinations beyond school

3.2  Key Components Of Curriculum Policy

3.2.1 The Curriculum Framework In Scotland

Commentary on the following components of curriculum policy with relevant links are set out under the following headings: 

1. Curriculum for Excellence (CfE)
2. Developing the Young Workforce (DYW)
3. Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC)
4. Early learning and childcare (ELC)
5. Youthwork

1. Curriculum for Excellence (CfE)

Curriculum for Excellence was developed following a National Debate. The first statement of intent was published in 2004 followed by the 'Building the Curriculum' series until 2010. These documents, developed in collaboration with national and local partners, set out the broad parameters of CfE, with schools and Local Authorities encouraged to innovate and find local approaches to planning and delivering the curriculum. 

Building the Curriculum 3: A Framework for Learning and Teaching (BTC3), 2008 was seen as a key document in the series. It set out the curriculum levels, the 8 curriculum areas and principles for curriculum design.  Experiences and outcomes ​​(often called Es andOs) followed setting out clear and concise statements about children's learning and progression in each curriculum area set across 5 curriculum levels (early level to fourth level). 

Benchmarks were developed over 2016/17 and complement the experiences and outcomes and make clear what learners need to know and be able to do to progress through the levels. They also provide support for consistency in teachers' and other practitioners' professional judgements when it comes to assessing the achievement of a level.

As the curriculum was being implemented a range of guidance and support materials was generated at both national and local level. This led, over time, to a perception of overload and in August 2016 a  definitive Statement for Practitioners from HM Chief Inspector of Education was published. The statement acknowledged that there was too much support material and guidance for practitioners at both national and local level which was contributing to the growth of over-bureaucratic approaches to planning and assessment in many schools and classrooms across the country.  The statement was intended to provide clear, practical advice for teachers and practitioners on planning learning, teaching and assessment across the curriculum. It provided key messages about what teachers and practitioners were expected to do to effectively plan learning, teaching and assessment for all learners, and also suggested what should be avoided. It summarised the key components of the curriculum framework within which teachers and practitioners were expected to teach. Action was taken at national level to significantly streamline all support and guidance materials for the curriculum.

CfE Briefing Series which provided succinct advice on key areas of change

2. Developing the Young Workforce (DYW)

Developing the Young Workforce: Scotland's Youth Employment Strategy (2014) set out to reduce youth unemployment levels by 40% by 2021. The strategy aims to create a work relevant school based curriculum offer for young people in Scotland, informed by the needs of the current and anticipated jobs market. This includes embedding career education from 3 to 18, offering formal careers advice at an earlier point in school, embedding employer engagement in education and creating new work based learning offers and widening learner pathway options for young people in their Senior Phase of school. New learner pathway options include a wider Apprenticeship offer for young people with Foundation Apprenticeships (SCQF Level 6) and Graduate Level Apprenticeships in place and Levels 4 and 5 in development.  DYW has had a direct impact on the renewed interest in curriculum innovation and design.  

3. Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) 

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) is Scotland's approach to promoting, supporting and safeguarding the wellbeing of children and young people and, along with CfE and DYW, underpinning the approach to Scotland's commitment to inclusive education.  Introduced in 2006, it is now internationally recognised, locally embedded and positively embraced by practitioners across children's services, changing culture, systems and practice for the benefit of children, young people and their parents.  

GIRFEC  provides a shared framework for all those working with children and young people,  to provide initial advice and support, to consider wellbeing holistically, and to plan and co-ordinate support across services.  Supporting the wellbeing of children and young people is essential to their learning and GIRFEC supports Health and Wellbeing as a responsibility for in Curriculum for Excellence.

GIRFEC puts the rights of the child at the heart of good practice.  These rights are set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which covers all aspects of a child or young person's life.  Children's rights sit alongside children, young people and parents' rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Scottish Government decided in 2019 that the best way to promote and embed GIRFEC further was in partnership with local delivery partners, through practical help, guidance and support, and not on a statutory basis.  The Scottish Government is therefore refreshing GIRFEC policy with those partners and developing new practice guidance on the key components of GIRFEC.

4. Early learning and childcare

 Realising the Ambition: Being Me was published in February 2020 and is a refresh and update of the national practice guidance (Building the Ambition, Scottish Government, 2014 and Pre-birth to Three: Positive Outcomes for Scotland's Children and Families, Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2010) for the early learning and childcare sector.  The guidance is fully aligned with the current policy direction of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC).  It has been developed by Education Scotland in collaboration with Scottish Government to support all those who work with and for babies, young children and families, in particular Early Learning and Childcare professionals across all parts of the sector and teachers in the early years of primary school.

Realising the Ambition: Being Me is based on recent national and international research on early childhood taking account of best practice as well as Education Scotland's inspection evidence. It reflects current curriculum guidance for ELC and early primary schools (specifically Curriculum for Excellence early level) and contains key information about developmental stages and how practitioners can best support the development of all babies, toddlers and young children. It reflects the key messages contained within existing legislation and other government policies, for example, GIRFEC.

Realising the Ambition: Being Me focuses on pedagogy and practice and extending connections across the whole of the early level of Curriculum for Excellence. It aims to expand understanding of the learning environment in terms of interactions, experiences and spaces and to raise expectations of what high quality may look like in different settings. The guidance supports the sector to be confident in providing the kind of rich culture, including high quality experiences and sensitive interactions in a variety of outdoor and indoor spaces, which will develop in babies, toddlers and young children, the emotional resilience they need to form a secure wellbeing base.

5. Youth Work

The National Youth Work Strategy coordinates Scotland's youth work.  The current strategy (2014-19), expires this year and work was underway to co-produce a new youth work strategy for 2021-25 to be published in late 2020.  This was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic but work is ongoing to publish in 2021.  This is the final progress report on the previous strategy  

Youth work makes an important contribution to closing the poverty-related attainment gap by supporting disadvantaged or vulnerable young people to engage in learning and is an essential part of our education and skills system. Strengthening partnerships between schools and youth work practitioners remains a priority for the Scottish Government as set out in the National Improvement Framework to help make Scotland "The Best Place to Grow Up and Learn". 

There are several youth awards which allow young people to take part in developing personal and social skills. These awards are promoted and delivered by: community organisations; local Authorities; colleges; uniformed organisations; work places; and training providers. Many youth awards recognise the need for young people to make their own decisions and the desired outcomes are decided by the participant. The following are some examples of youth awards: 

  • The Duke of Edinburgh's Award is for young people between the ages of 14 and 25 and can be achieved at three levels; bronze, silver and gold. Desired outcomes are set by the young person. Completion of a Duke of Edinburgh's Award requires achievement of four individual sections (five at gold level). The awards are accredited through the Duke of Edinburgh's Award. 
  • Youth Achievement Awards can be achieved by any young person over the age of 14 years and can be achieved at four levels - bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The awards can be delivered in any setting that engages young people and activities are set by the individual. 
  • Saltire Awards are for young people between the ages of 12 and 25 and who are volunteering for the benefit of the community or a good cause that provides benefit for someone other than the volunteer. Saltire awards are achieved on completion of a set challenge or a volunteering time commitment between 10 and 500 hours. 
  • Community Achievement Awards, set up and are run by Kelvin College's CLD team, are for young people over the age of 12 and can be achieved at SCQF levels 4-7. Time commitment to achieve this award increases with the level of the award being achieved. These awards recognise personal achievement and encourage volunteers to reflect on personal learning experiences.
  • The KGVI Leadership Award is an award created and run by the Boy's Brigade. The award is for young people between the ages of 17 and 22 years who want to become leaders within the Boy's Brigade. The award is part of the Scottish Credit Qualifications Framework (SCQF) and is credited at level 7 which is the equivalent of a Higher National Certificate or and Advanced Higher. The award takes two years to complete.

3.2.2 Curriculum Areas And Subject Specific Advice

There are 8 curriculum areas under Curriculum for Excellence. This section focuses on a number of subjects/ curricular areas that are receiving specific Scottish Government Funding. 

  • Literacy and numeracy 

Scotland's National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan make clear the priority that literacy and numeracy must have within the education system. That reflects their importance as the 'Responsibility of all' practitioners within the CfE framework. It is set out within the NIF vision - Excellence through raising attainment: ensuring that every child achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy and within the key priorities Improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy. 

The Attainment Challenge approach and funding focus on literacy and numeracy (along with health and wellbeing). Measures of assessment both nationally (SNSA and ACEL) and internationally (PISA) focus significantly on numeracy and literacy. Education Scotland have developed benchmarks and experiences and outcomes that detail expectations of learning at stages in numeracy and literacy.  It is expected that Initial Teacher Education and Professional Learning will prepare and develop excellent skills in the teaching of numeracy and literacy.

The Making Maths Count report, prepared by the independent National Profile-Raising Group for Mathematics outlines the priorities for numeracy and maths education and contains recommendations which the Scottish Government and Education Scotland are implementing.  A one-year review assesses progress.

Our approach in supporting literacy it built on the Literacy Action Plan which has informed the development of a range of Scottish Government funded support programmes including Play, Talk, Read; Bookbug; Read, Write, Count; and The First Minister's Reading Challenge.

  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

The STEM Education and Training Strategy for Scotland was published on 26 October 2017. It provides an ambitious but informed and targeted five-year programme of actions to be taken between 2017 and 2022, to encourage and support everyone to develop their STEM capability and skills under the themes of Excellence, Equity, Inspiration and Connection.  It covers action in early years and school education, community learning, colleges, universities, apprenticeships and science centres and festivals, and sets out Scottish Minister's vision of a Scotland where everyone is encouraged and supported to develop their STEM skills throughout their lives to: 

  • Improve opportunities for all;
  • Meet employer skills requirements;
  • Drive inclusive economic growth; and
  • Allow Scotland to flourish and compete on a global platform.

The Strategy aims to pull together and enhance the wealth of existing activity across Scottish education as well as deliver new initiatives to achieve these aims.  In schools, this includes supporting professional learning to increase teacher confidence in delivering STEM, implementation of the Young STEM Leaders programme, development of a STEM Nation Award to recognise excellence in schools delivering STEM, collation of an online directory of inspirational resources for schools, and expansion of the Improving Gender Balance Programme to tackle unconscious bias and gender stereotyping.  Progress against this activity is being reported on an annual basis, including data on key performance indicators.

  • Health & wellbeing

The health and wellbeing of children and young people is an absolute priority for the Scottish Government. In schools, health and wellbeing is a curricular area in its own

right, with a distinct set of experiences and outcomes. Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) has an important role to play in promoting the health and wellbeing of children and young people and all of those in the educational communities to which they belong. This approach to Health and Wellbeing is designed to help children and young people develop the knowledge and understanding, skills and capabilities to build emotional and physical wellbeing, creating resilience to manage life's challenges.

Health and wellbeing is also about the whole approach of the early learning and childcare setting, school, college or other setting. Children and young people should feel nurtured, safe, respected and included in the learning environment and all staff should be proactive in promoting positive relationships and behaviour in the classroom, playground, and wider learning community. Everyone within each early learning setting/school and its wider community, whatever their contact with children and young people may be, shares the responsibility for creating a positive ethos and climate of respect and trust; one in which everyone can make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of each individual within the school and the wider community.

  • Social Studies

Social studies  has a crucial role in helping children and young people  understand their own country, the history and heritage of Scotland and the challenges it faces.

Actions to support the learning involves grant funding a range of external partners to provide curriculum enrichment through external speakers and schools trips and visits as follows.  These complement the broader support for this area of  the curriculum provided by Education Scotland:

  • Holocaust education: The Government has supported the Holocaust Educational Trust to deliver it's Lessons from Auschwitz programme in Scotland since 2009.  To date around 5000 teachers and young people have taken part in the programme which involved a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Young participants become Holocaust Ambassadors to keep Holocaust remembrance alive in schools and communities. 
  • The STUC's Unions into Schools and the Scottish Enterprise Academy' social enterprise in schools programmes bring  external speakers and input to help young people develop awareness of fair work and social enterprise which support the Government's Developing the Young Workforce agenda.
  • Heritage Education – Historic Environment Scotland administer a travel subsidy for schools trips and visits including extra support for schools and pupils in areas of high socio-economic deprivation.
  • Languages 

The Scottish Government recognises and values the importance of language skills. Actions to support the development of languages in Scotland include:

protecting and promoting the use of Gaelic language and Scots;

supporting British Sign Language; and 

improving the learning of all languages in schools so that it becomes a normal, expected part of school education from Primary 1 onwards. 

Through our 1+2 languages policy, we are committed to that every school in Scotland will offer children the opportunity to learn two additional languages by the time they reach their third year of secondary education.

In 2013, we set up the Strategic Implementation Group (SIG). The group oversees the delivery of the 1+2 policy commitment and the agreed Implementation Plan which sets out overarching objectives for 2017-2021.

To assist with the implementation of the policy, the Scottish Government provided £3 million to local authorities (bringing the total provided since 2013 to £30.2 million). SG also supported:

the Scotland's National Centre for Languages and the Confucius Institute for Scotland's Schools to support teacher professional learning for primary and secondary teachers, and to support learning about Chinese language and culture;

the British Council to enable them to administer the Modern Language Assistant Programme; and

the Scottish European Educational Trust (SEET) to support the development of 1+2 language learning through their Euroquiz and Our World projects.

In 2013-14, the Association of Directors of Education Scotland, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Education Scotland and the Scottish Government agreed that Local Authorities would provide information on language learning in their schools under the 1+2 languages policy.

  • Gaelic Medium Education in Scotland 

Gaelic Medium Education (GME) is an established sector in Scottish education.  The aim is for young people to be able to operate confidently and fluently in two languages as they progress from early years, through primary education and into secondary education.    In the best Gaelic medium and immersion practice, the purpose is to ensure that children achieve equal fluency and literacy in both Gaelic and English, whilst reaching expected attainment levels in all other areas of the curriculum through the medium of Gaelic.  GME is delivered to children and young people who come from families where Gaelic is spoken as well as those from families with little or no background in Gaelic.  

Educational agencies and public bodies in Scotland also have a vital role to play in supporting and developing Gaelic education in Scotland.  Education Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and teacher education institutions make an essential contribution to the promotion, support and growth of Gaelic education in Scotland.   Along with these bodies, Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig supports pupils, teachers and parents through its role in providing resources for Gaelic education.

Gaelic Early Learning and Childcare

Gaelic Early Learning and Childcare (Gaelic ELC) is an important initial stage of GME.  Its importance is that it encourages language learning from an early age and puts young children on a path towards Gaelic fluency.  There are no duties on education authorities to provide Gaelic ELC but they may do so and Guidance recommends that authorities consider putting in place Gaelic ELC as a step towards Gaelic Medium Primary Education (GMPE).   There are also a number of Gaelic medium cròileagain (playgroups) operating across Scotland.  

Gaelic Medium Primary Education

Gaelic Medium Primary Education (GMPE) is currently available in a number of education authority areas across Scotland.   There are also a growing number of Gaelic medium schools in Scotland and dual stream (Gaelic and English) primary schools where GME is in the majority.   GME from nursery to the end of primary school is a form of immersion education.  With this form of education, Gaelic is the sole language of learning, teaching and assessment in the first three years of primary school, referred to as the immersion phase.  

From P4 to P7, immersion education will continue but, English language experiences and outcomes will be introduced with the four contexts of learning under Curriculum for Excellence continuing to be delivered through the medium of Gaelic.  From P4 onwards Gaelic should remain the predominant language of the classroom.

Gaelic Medium Secondary Education

Gaelic Medium Secondary Education (GMSE) is available in a number of secondary schools in Scotland. In these schools, Gaelic is typically offered as a subject, with some schools delivering a further proportion of the curriculum through the medium of Gaelic.  Gaelic Learner Education (GLE)  is distinct from GME in that it is delivered to those who are in English Medium Education (EME) as an additional language.  GLE provides young people with an introduction to Gaelic language and culture.  

Where GME is available at primary level, it is considered essential that children and young people are given the opportunity to continue their language skills into secondary education.  This will mostly be within the education authority that provided GMPE or it could be through a joint provision arrangement between education authorities.  The GME curriculum from S1 to S3 and into the Senior Phase (S4-S6) remains one based on the principle of immersion.  Schools should aim to deliver a sufficient proportion of the secondary curriculum through the medium of Gaelic to enable young people to continue to develop their fluency in Gaelic.   National Courses in Gàidhlig (for native speakers of Gaelic) and Gaelic (Learners) are available from National 2 to Advanced Higher. SQA offers learners the opportunity to undertake a range of National Course assessments through the medium of Gaelic including Geography, History, Mathematics and Modern Languages.

The Education Committee of the Scottish Parliament noted recently that there had been a sharp drop in young people taking Gaelic qualifications in secondary school and that this will have a direct impact on the number of young people who go on to become teachers of Gaelic and in Gaelic Medium Education. The Committee recommended that the Scottish Government considers as a matter of urgency how Gaelic uptake can be supported to prevent this situation becoming worse.

3.2.3 Complementary Education Policies

The Scottish Attainment Challenge, the Commission for Widening Access and the work of the Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality, have all supported delivery of our key priorities of excellence and equity and closing the poverty related attainment gap set out in the Education Delivery Plan and the National Improvement Framework in 2016. 

The Scottish Attainment Challenge

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, outlined at the start of her programme for government in May 2016, that the "defining mission" for her government would be closing the attainment gap between how well those living in poor areas do academically compared to those in middle-class areas. 

This was the purpose behind the establishment in 2015 of   the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC), backed by the £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund, supporting schools and Local Authorities to drive forward improvements in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing to help close the attainment gap.

This requires a long-term commitment which is why the Scottish Government  extended funding for the Scottish Attainment Challenge at current levels beyond the lifetime of this parliament and into 2021/22.

Since its launch in 2015 the Scottish Attainment Challenge has been developed and extended.  There are now 5 funding streams within the Attainment Scotland Fund:

  • Challenge Authorities Programme – targeted support to 9 Local Authorities with the highest levels of deprivation
  • Schools' Programme – targeted support to an additional 73 schools out with these 9 Challenge authority areas
  • Pupil Equity Funding –  funding support to all schools with P1-S3 pupils from low income families (97% of schools)
  • Care Experienced Children and Young People Fund – targeted support to improve the educational outcomes of this group of young people
  • National Programmes – a small number of nationally funded programmes which support the Scottish Attainment Challenge

Schools and Local Authorities are using this funding in a variety of different ways to support improvements in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing.  This includes investment in additional staff such as teachers, speech and language therapists, home link worker and counsellors as well as investment in continuing professional development for staff, family engagement support and classroom resources.

In order to maximise impact, there are now 32 full time Attainment Advisors in place, employed by Education Scotland, one for each local authority. They bring support and challenge to schools and authorities across the country to help them close the poverty related attainment gap.

Evidence of progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap

  • In December 2019 we published our most comprehensive set of data and evidence on performance in Scottish education, through the National Improvement Framework Interactive Evidence Report.  That data (ACEL (Achievement of CfE Level)) shows that:
    • Attainment among the most disadvantaged children and young people rose  in numeracy at all stages, and in reading and writing at P1, P4 and P7. 
    • The attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged has narrowed on most indicators.  
  • The 'Attainment Scotland Fund (ASF) evaluation: interim report, published on 21 June 2019, shows that our approach is working and head teachers also believe it is making an impact. (ASF year 4 report will be published in July 2020) 
    • 88% of headteachers reported improvements in closing the poverty- related attainment gap as a result of interventions supported by the Attainment Scotland Fund and 95% expect to see improvements over the next 5 years.
    • They also clearly value the autonomy provided to them 
    • 89% of headteachers felt they had the autonomy to develop a plan for PEF
    • 71% of headteachers felt there had been an increase in collaboration as a result of the Attainment funding.
  • Professor Sahlberg, member and international expert of the ICEA, noted in September 2019 that "Overall we have been impressed by the serious efforts of the Government in many areas, especially the Scottish Attainment Challenge really targeting the inequity and inequality in the system.

Additional Support for Learning

Long-term work is underway to implement the recommendations of the 2012 Doran Review of learning provision for children and young people with complex additional support needs. As part of this work, we expect to move to services which are strategically commissioned to meet the needs of children and young people across Scotland. 

In 2019, Scottish Ministers commissioned an independent review of the implementation of the additional support for learning legislation. The report outlines the approach taken, the evidence heard and draws out a number of interconnected themes in making recommendations for improvement.

We are committed to working in partnership with COSLA and ADES to fully and carefully consider the conclusions of the ASL Review and agree actions to address the findings and recommendations.  These will be published in the autumn 2020.

The Commission for Widening Access to University, 2016

'A Blueprint for Fairness', the final report of the Commission on Widening Access, was published in June 2016 advising the Scottish Government on how to ensure fair and equal access to Higher Education for all young people, in particular those in least deprived communities. It aligns with a whole series of educational and social justice reforms aimed at improving equity, including the plans to enhance the volume and quality of early years provision; and the work to close the school attainment gap.

This report set out a number of recommendations relating to the school curriculum offer, including:

  • The Scottish Government, working with key stakeholders, should ensure the key transition phases around SCQF levels 6-8 are better used to provide students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the qualifications and experiences required to support fair access.  
  • Universities, colleges and local authorities should work together to provide access to a range of Higher and Advanced Higher subjects, which ensures that those from disadvantaged backgrounds or living in rural areas are not restricted in their ability to access higher education by the subject choices available to them.

Schools for the Future programme

The ways in which pupils learn are ever-changing, so it's vital the environments where they're taught in can adapt to meet the needs of the curriculum. Innovative and inspirational learning facilities can make a real difference to educational outcomes. In Scotland we want all of our learners to have access to state of the art facilities that young people want to learn in and parents and staff can be proud of.

The £1.8 billion Schools for the Future Programme, launched in 2009, will see the construction or refurbishment of 117 schools and will benefit over 60,000 pupils by the end of 2020 (due to the COVID-19 pandemic). To date, 111 schools have been completed and are operational, the remaining 6 schools are currently in construction with at least one new school project being delivered in every local authority area in Scotland. 

School empowerment 

It is important that all these developments are seen within the context of increasing school empowerment and Headteacher autonomy, supported through the education reform agenda set out in section 2.  


Glow is Scotland's nationally available digital environment and can support learning across the whole curriculum. Glow is not just one place or platform, instead it offers a username and password that gives access to a number of different web services.

Funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Education Scotland, Glow provides a safe, online environment for educators, learners and parents to communicate and collaborate using services such as Glow Blogs, Microsoft Office 365, G Suite and Glow RM Unify Launch Pad.

These services can be accessed by Glow account holders at anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

Glow is used by learners and educators across Scotland in lots of different ways. For example, to:

  • share ideas and learning resources – across classes, schools and local authorities;
  • create digital content such as blogs and OneNote digital notebooks;
  • join communities to discuss specific topics or get help with difficult concepts;
  • create personalised programmes of work;
  • find teaching resources and explore new learning approaches and practices;
  • manage deadlines and projects using tools in Microsoft Office 365;
  • communicate, collaborate and co-create with other Glow users.

Glow accounts are available to all schools and education establishments across Scotland, including independent schools and teacher education colleges/universities. Scottish education partners who are involved in the delivery of the 3–18 curriculum can also gain access to Glow

3.2.4 Assessment Arrangements

Assessing the Curriculum

Building the Curriculum 5: A Framework for Assessment is the main piece of guidance in relation to assessment advice both in the BGE and across the entire 3-18 learner journey. It is supported by supplementary guidance covering:

  • reporting;
  • understanding and applying shared standards;
  • recognising achievement, profiling and reporting; and
  • quality assurance and moderation.

A CfE briefing covering assessing progress and achievement in the BGE has also been developed this is complemented by more recently published benchmarks which set out what learners need to know and be able to do upon the achievement of a curriculum level. 

A wide-ranging programme of support for assessment and moderation has been developed through collaboration amongst Education Scotland, local authorities and practitioners.  This has provided practitioners with opportunities to share, engage and reflect on the assessment and moderation of Curriculum for Excellence levels across the broad general education.  See Annex F on Education Scotland support for implementation for some examples of this. 

Achievement of CfE levels 

As part of the development of the National Improvement Framework, the Scottish Government introduced the national Achievement of CfE Levels data collection. This move addressed the need for census level attainment data, which could be used to inform and target improvement activity at school, local authority and national level. The introduction of the annual data collection also reflects the primacy of teacher professional judgement in assessing children's progress during the Broad General Education. 

Teachers of learners in P1, P4, P7 and S3 in publicly funded schools are asked to indicate whether each child in their class has achieved the CfE level associated with that stage, basing their evaluation on the full range of assessment information available to them and their knowledge and understanding of the children and young people they teach. First gathered in 2016, from 2019 onwards the "ACEL" Curriculum for Excellence achievement of a level data have been designated as Official Statistics.

Scottish National Standardised Assessments

Introduced in academic year 2017/18, the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA) provide teachers with an additional source of objective, comparable information about learner progress in literacy and numeracy, which can be used to inform next steps in learning and contribute to teachers' professional judgements of achievement of CfE levels. National Standardised Assessments are a key element of the National Improvement Framework, and our response to OECD 2015 recommendations to improve the availability of consistent assessment data across the system. 

In response to strong representation from the Gaelic Medium Education sector, a Gaelic equivalent to the SNSA – the Measaidhean Coitcheann Nàiseanta airson Foghlam tron Ghàidhlig (MCNG) – was introduced in December 2018. The MCNG assesses the literacy and numeracy progress of children and young people in Gaelic Medium Education in P1, P4, P7 and S3.

From October 2017, a suite of training courses and materials in the use of the Scottish National Standardised Assessment system has been made available to teachers to support the development of the data literacy skills required to realise the benefit and value of the diagnostic information generated by each assessment, and to identify areas for improvement, alongside wider assessment evidence. 

Similar training courses and support materials have been developed for use by practitioners in the Gaelic medium Education sector since January 2019.

An SG improvement activity plan was agreed with stakeholders (incorporating actions arising from the Independent Review, the P1 Practitioner Forum's recommendations and the Education and Skills Committee SNSA Inquiry Report), and though some elements of that plan have been delayed due to the Covid-19 outbreak and associated school closures, improvements are ongoing and good progress has been made. 

A key output from the improvement plan was the publication, in August 2019, of a Purpose and Use of National Standardised Assessment document, which provided clarifying guidance on how national standardised assessments in Scotland are intended to be used by practitioners, headteachers and local authorities.

A P1 practitioner forum on SNSA was established, led by Professor Sue Ellis. The forum was a place for engagement and discussion on the issues facing standardised assessments in a play-based early years curriculum. The P1 Practitioner Forum on SNSA published a report in April 2019, which set out best practice advice and guidance on the use of standardised assessments in a P1 setting, including associated recommendations for future improvements. 

Additional evidence can be found at:

Introduction of New National Courses to Support Curriculum for Excellence

Working with a range of partners SQA progressively introduced a suite of National Courses to support the Curriculum for Excellence for delivery from session 2013-14. This new suite of National 3, National 4, National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher replaced the legacy Access 3, Standard Grade, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2, Higher and Advanced Higher. National 1 units and National 2 courses were also developed to replace the legacy Access 1 and Access 2 provision. 

The Curriculum for Excellence values, purposes and principles underpin all National Courses. Learners have opportunities to acquire and develop the four capacities, as well as skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work. National Courses provide a statement of a learner's achievement against a defined standard providing learners with the opportunity to demonstrate their acquisition of skills, knowledge and understanding in a formal way. The broad objectives of National Courses are to provide high standards, and breadth and depth of learning which will help learners to progress to further study, training and employment.

The new National Courses were designed to form a qualifications system which:

  • supports the values, purposes and principles of Curriculum for Excellence and support the learning of the new curriculum, including its breadth 
  • provides a seamless transition from outcomes and experiences, with increased emphasis on skills 
  • is inclusive, coherent and easy to understand for pupils, parents, staff, employers and other users 
  • meets the needs of all learners in progressing from prior levels of achievement and provides opportunities for learners to develop at different rates, at different times, in different areas across the curriculum  
  • provide clear and smooth progression and articulation between different levels of qualifications, from Access  (note: Access 1 to 3 was subsequently replaced with National 1 to 3) to National 4 and 5, to Higher and Advanced Higher, and onto post-school learning and employment 
  • involves an overall approach to assessment which reduces the time learners spend on assessment for certification and allows more time for learning, and more focus on skills and integration with other aspects of learning  
  • results in assessment that supports, motivates and challenges learners, with more scope for personalisation and choice 
  • maintains high standards, credibility and relevance.

Design of new National Courses

The new National Courses were largely the same volume and size, in terms of SCQF level and credit points, as the legacy qualifications they replaced. Apart from Standard Grade Foundation which attracted 24 SCQF credit points whereas the replacement National Course at this SCQF level – National 3 – only attracts 18 SCQF credit points. The new suite of National Courses was wholly unit-based for the first time. Standard Grade, where the majority of historical uptake at SCQF levels 3, 4 and 5 resided, did not have a unit-based structure and associated internal assessment requirements. 

Content and Assessment

While, course content was built on the relevant Experiences and Outcomes learners would experience in their Broad General Education, there is generally no simple one-to-one relationship between qualifications at SCQF level 4 and beyond as these are more specific to allow for more specialist study of subjects. It is only at CfE curriculum level 4 that there is a broad match with SCQF level 4, and this is in terms of level of demand. All new National Courses regardless of SCQF level featured a new form of internally assessed unit developed specifically for the new National Courses. Additionally, the 'Added Value' concepts of breadth, depth and challenge were assessed from National 4 upwards. At National 4 – this is assessed through an internally assessed Added Value Unit and at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher through an externally assessed Question Paper and in most subjects, a Coursework assessment. 

Added value is what makes the National Course more than the sum of its parts. It does this by addressing one or more of the following:

  • breadth: demonstration of breadth of learning across the Units of the Course, drawing on knowledge and skills from across the Units, requiring retention and/or integration as appropriate
  • challenge: requiring greater depth or extension of knowledge and/or skills assessed in other Units of the Course (note that this must be within the SCQF level of the Course)
  • application: requiring application of knowledge and/or skills in practical or theoretical contexts as appropriate.

Supporting the Implementation of New National Courses

The new National Courses were supported through a range of measures including launch events. SQA introduced a dedicated Curriculum for Excellence Support team to work with schools and colleges throughout implementation. Unit Assessment Support Packs and Specimen Question Papers were introduced to support internal and external assessment, respectively. SQA worked with local authorities to train teachers as 'Nominees' to work within their authorities to support understanding and verification of internal assessment. Additionally, prior verification of assessments was available for schools and colleges who wished to develop their own assessments. A programme of Understanding Standards events was introduced, and a dedicated website developed to allow teacher to strengthen their understanding of the assessment standards applied in SQA qualifications.  

Initial Evaluation of New National Courses

The Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Management Board established a short life working group to reflect on the experiences of the first session (2013 -14) of the new National Courses. This was repeated the following year. SQA also carried out a range of evaluation activity including:NQ Research Fieldwork Reports 2015-16 and 2016-17; and Research and Evidence Report: Internal Unit Assessment in National Courses (2016).

[The above reports may be downloaded from].

Approaches to managing or reducing assessment load in the new National Courses was a common theme in the findings of the above activity, particularly teacher workload associated with internal assessment and its associated quality assurance. In 2016, SQA introduced measures to reduce the volume of assessment in internal unit assessments.

Revised National Qualifications (RNQ)

In September 2016, Scottish Government requested that SQA remove the requirement for mandatory unit assessment in National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher on a phased basis and the addition of an extended Grade D band. As a result of the changes to internal assessment SQA progressively reviewed and the Course Assessment (Question Papers and/or Coursework) strengthened in all National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses. 

This Revised National Qualifications (RNQ) development was first assessed in 2017-18 with National 5 and other levels rolled out in subsequent years. Support continued to be provided through updated Course Specifications, Specimen Question Papers and continuation of the Understanding Standards programme. Additionally, Subject Implementation Managers were recruited. These were experienced practitioners and often held Senior Appointee roles with SQA in their subject area. They provide subject specific support to schools and colleges throughout Scotland.

The introduction of qualifications from session 2013-14 and subsequent revision over 2016-17 for assessment in 2017-18 impacted on the time secondary school leaders and practitioners had to develop wider aspects of curriculum design at the Senior Phase and broad general education.

The phasing in of the removal of unit assessments from National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher, brought into focus a debate around the place and validity of National 4 within the Senior Phase offer.  Stakeholder views were mixed on the perceived value of this award, which is internally assessed, as opposed to through a mandatory exam.    

3.2.5 Review And Evaluation

The national evaluation framework

HM Inspectors -  inspection process (Education Scotland function)

Evidence from engagement, support and HM Inspectors' inspection activities provides a holistic view of successes and areas for improvement within the Scottish education system and its impact on the lives of learners and their preparations for future careers.  Independent evaluations of the quality of provision, together with feedback from engagement and capacity building across education sectors brings together a unique evidence base, including observations of learning at first hand. Education Scotland uses this to promote improvement and provide assurance to service users, Scottish Ministers, and the public about standards, quality and improvement in education.  

Further information on the approach to inspection is set out in section 3.3 with reports on recent curriculum findings attached at Annex B. 

Development of the National Improvement Framework, 2016 

The National Improvement Framework (NIF) set out the vision and priorities for Scottish education, that have been agreed across the system, and the national improvement activity that needs to be undertaken to help deliver those key priorities. The overarching ambition was to help make Scotland "The Best Place to Grow Up and Learn". The NIF complements the ongoing implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), Getting It Right for Every Child, and Developing the Young Workforce, which are the three supporting pillars of the Scottish education system. It aimed to develop an empowered and collaborative system, with the improvement of children and young people's outcomes at the heart of everything..

It set out the following vision for education in Scotland:

  • Excellence through raising attainment: ensuring that every child achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy, set out within Curriculum for Excellence levels, and the right range of skills, qualifications and achievements to allow them to succeed; and
  • Achieving equity: ensuring every child has the same opportunity to succeed, with a particular focus on closing the poverty related attainment gap.

And the following key priorities for achieving this:

  • Improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy
  • Closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children and young people
  • Improvement in children and young people's health and wellbeing
  • Improvement in employability skills and sustained, positive school-leaver destinations for all young people

Local evaluation processes

In Scotland, each of the thirty-two Local Authorities takes responsibility for the quality of education which they provide for children and young people.  Evaluation of quality operates at various levels.  Local authorities are accountable to Local Elected Members (politicians) for the nature and quality of education provided.  They also have a responsibility to parents and carers through, for example, accountability to Parent Councils. Education Scotland undertakes regular scrutiny activity, principally in schools and early years centres.  Inspection of schools and early years centres is a regular part of accountability and evaluation at a local level.  Local authorities report to the relevant Council group or forum on the outcomes of these inspections, both on an individual basis and in the form of an overall, summative report, often done annually.


Insight is the professional benchmarking tool used in Scotland for analysing attainment data in the Senior Phase, accessible by secondary schools and local authorities. It is designed to support self-evaluation and provide schools with their attainment information in a format that makes it straightforward to identify possible areas for improvement for young people in S4 to S6.

The system is updated twice annually, around September for attainment results, and February for school leavers' data. It is particularly valuable to inform improvement planning, particularly following the February release, when key data for schools are updated.

Wider progress reports/ publications

Specific evaluation activities are also undertaken on individual programmes, such as the Scottish Attainment Challenge, the STEM strategy and the Developing the Young Workforce Programme with regular reports published on these. 

3.2.6 Teacher Professional Learning And Leadership

Professional Standards for Teaching 

The General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) maintains a suite of four Professional Standards which are underpinned by the themes of values, sustainability and leadership.   

The Standard for Provisional Registration (SPR) specifies what is expected of a student teacher following completion of their Initial Teacher Education programme. It also acts as one of the set of subject benchmark statements for professional qualifications in Scotland developed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Having gained the SPR, all provisionally registered teachers continue their professional learning journey through the Teacher Induction Scheme or Flexible Route towards attainment of the Standard for Full Registration. The SFR is the gateway to the profession and the benchmark of teacher competence for all teachers. It must therefore constitute standards of capability in relation to teaching (with such reasonable adjustments as may be required under Equalities Legislation) in which learners, parents, the profession itself and the wider community can have confidence. 

The requirements of The Standard for Full Registration are in addition to, and follow the successful achievement of, The Standard for Provisional Registration. The purposes of The Standard for Full Registration are: 

  • a clear and concise description of the professional qualities and capabilities probationer teachers are expected to attain;
  • a professional standard against which reliable and consistent recommendations and decisions can be made on the fitness of new teachers for full registration with GTC Scotland;
  • a clear and concise description of the professional qualities and capabilities fully registered teachers are expected to maintain and enhance throughout their careers;
  • a baseline standard of professional competence which applies to teachers throughout their careers.

Having attained the Standard for Full Registration, teachers will continue to develop their expertise and experience across all areas of their professional practice through appropriate and sustained career-long professional learning. The Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning is based on sound national and international research.  and has been developed to support teachers through their careers to identify, plan and develop their own professional learning needs and to ensure continuing development of professional practice.

The Standards for Leadership and Management has been developed to support the self-evaluation and professional learning of those in, or aspiring to, formal leadership roles in schools.  Embedded within these standards is "Learning for Sustainability", which is a whole-school commitment that helps the school and its wider community develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and practices needed to take decisions which are compatible with a sustainable future in a just and equitable world.  GTC Scotland recognises that effective leadership depends on the principles of collegiality. All teachers should have opportunities to be leaders. They lead learning for, and with, all learners with whom they engage. They also work with, and support the development of, colleagues and other partners. The Standards for Leadership and Management include a focus on leadership for learning, teacher leadership, and working collegiately to build leadership capacity in others. 

  • Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland's Colleges 

Lecturers work within a diverse, complex and dynamic environment. The Standards are designed to support and encourage lecturers to develop a clear understanding of their role and how they contribute to wider student outcomes. Underpinning the Standards is the expectation that individual lecturers are expected to commit to and be responsible for their own continuous professional development, ensuring the quality of the student experience. developments. Promotes and supports a culture of quality improvement. 

Lecturers create supportive environments by working collaboratively with stakeholders, including employers, across all learning communities. 

The Professional Standards support the achievement of this vision by providing a clear description of the professional practice, knowledge, behaviours, qualities and capabilities that lecturers in colleges are expected to develop, maintain and enhance throughout their careers. These Standards will be used for a range of purposes including: Underpinning professional teaching qualifications for lecturers in Scotland's colleges. Developing critically reflective and evaluative practitioners. Supporting professional dialogue and collegiate working. Supporting professional development. Contributing to ongoing developments across the sector. 

Teaching Scotland's Future

Over the last decade in Scotland, education policy has given significant priority to strengthening the quality of teachers and educational leadership. 

In 2010, Professor Graham Donaldson undertook a review of teacher education on behalf of the Scottish Government. The resulting report 'Teaching Scotland's Future - Report of a review of teacher education in Scotland', published early in 2011, concluded that the two most important and achievable ways in which school education can realise the high aspirations Scotland has for its young people are through supporting and strengthening, firstly, the quality of teaching, and secondly, the quality of leadership. 

The publication of Teaching Scotland's Future highlighted the importance of sustained teacher professional learning and development in improving outcomes for young people. It also emphasised the importance of career pathways in supporting teacher recruitment and retention. TSF led to a wider recognition as to the importance of quality professional learning and good educational leadership, while providing a basis for Professional Update.   It also reinforced the place of masters learning for teacher which is increasingly common at all levels of the profession. A wide range of new forms of Initial Teacher Education programmes also appeared in Scotland towards the end of the decade, aimed at helping to address recruitment challenges for teachers in priority subjects as well as in the remote and rural areas of Scotland. 

In 2015 the Scottish Government commissioned an independent review of how well key concepts of TSF had been embedded in the teaching profession. This is available at:


There has been a major focus on teacher leadership in recent years, with considerable effort  put into developing a quality offer in terms of professional learning in leadership. Moreover from Aug 2020 all newly appointed headteachers in Scotland will be required to hold the Standard  for Headship, awarded on completion of the Into Headship qualification   

Role of Scottish College for Education Leadership (SCEL)

In June 2017 the Scottish Government published Education Governance: Next Steps Empowering Our Teachers, Parents and Communities to Deliver Excellence and Equity for Our Children.  It outlined a significantly enhanced role and purpose for Education Scotland with a strengthened inspection and improvement function and a renewed focus on professional learning and leadership.  

As a result the functions of SCEL were transferred to Education Scotland on 1 April 2018. All  previous SCEL activity has been embedded within the Professional Learning and Leadership (PLL) Directorate.  The merger of Education Scotland and SCEL has led to enhanced provision and support for professional learning and leadership.  The funding previously made available to SCEL has been maintained to date and now supports the enhanced remit of Education Scotland. 

SCEL's mission was to bring clarity and coherence to educational leadership in Scotland, ensuring that all teachers and early years practitioners engage with the most relevant, meaningful and inspiring professional learning and development. The organisational vision was to work in partnership with the profession and other national organisations to deliver an education system in Scotland where every teacher and early years practitioner benefits from excellent leadership learning and development so as to make a direct difference to young people and society.

The PLL team have established an outcome and evaluation process to more effectively gather evidence of impact to share with colleagues and to inform decisions on future professional learning and leadership developments.  The team also recognise the importance of collaborations, partnerships and relationships in this work and continue to work closely with colleagues in Regional Improvement Collaboratives, local authorities, Learning Directorate and regional improvement teams to ensure coherence of offer and equity of opportunity across the system with a core focus on building capacity.  

Teacher Career Pathways 

The Extended Joint Chairs of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) agreed that an independent panel should be established to consider the design and development of teacher career pathway models.

This was part of the Education governance: next steps paper, published in June 2017.

An Independent Panel on Career Pathways for Teachers was established on SNCT's behalf in June 2018.  The Panel engaged broadly with the teaching profession in Scotland in order to develop a range of models of career pathways to enable the development of different and exciting careers in teaching.

New pathways should provide opportunities for teachers to diversify their career, act to support high quality teaching and learning while helping to deliver excellent education outcomes for pupils.

The Panel was tasked with  identifying exciting, flexible pathways and opportunities for teachers, including head teachers.

The Panel engaged widely with the teaching profession in considering the different options for teacher career pathways. This included considering international evidence and previous Scottish policy interventions. Ten recommendations were drafted and presented in a report to the SNCT in May 2019 and the Panel concluded.  

Since the publication of the report the SNCT has commissioned three sub-groups to discuss key themes. These are:

  • Lead teacher
  • Headship and Beyond
  • Sabbaticals

This work was to be completed by December  2020.  Implementation was agreed for August 2021.  However due to COVID -19 this work has been delayed and the SNCT will take a decision on the implementation date by the end of this calendar year.

3.3 Key Issues On The Curriculum 


This section sets out key relevant points on what we know about curriculum implementation.  It draws on: direct evidence from capacity building and engagement activities with practitioners and partners; the independent views of HM Inspectors from inspections and other scrutiny activities; considerations by key stakeholders through the Curriculum & Assessment Board; and the findings from Scottish Parliament Education & Skills Committee Inquiries.

These sources highlight key issues on progress in implementing curriculum change from these different perspectives. 

3.3.1 Curriculum & Assessment Board Priorities For Action

In March 2018, in light of 15-24 Learner Journey Review research, evidence emerging from school inspection reports, the 2015 OECD Education Review, SQA Fieldwork, PISA and SSLN Results and academic research, immediately after its establishment the Curriculum & Assessment Board took the decision to revisit the fundamentals of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) , in order to determine where its focus should be. 

The Board considered how the benefits of CfE were being realised in practice: looking at the educational outcomes that CfE was intended to achieve for children and young people; using available evidence to provide an analysis of how effectively CfE had achieved those outcomes to date; and identifying where the benefits, as originally intended, may not yet have been realised in full.  See paper below. 

As a result of these discussions the Board agreed to prioritise the following areas: 

  • The CfE narrative - ensuring clarity of understanding
  • The 'responsibilities for all' areas of literacy, numeracy and health and well-being
  • Curriculum design - P7 to S3 transitions and preparing for the transition to Senior Phase 

At the same time the Board also took a deeper look at the Senior Phase and considered how it was delivering on the aspirations that had been set for it under CfE in terms of: flexibility; parity of esteem; personalisation and choice; a focus on positive and sustained destinations; and equity and excellence for all our young people. 

After considering current practice and emerging issues in relation to the Senior Phase curriculum the Curriculum & Assessment Board agreed the need to:

  • Provide clarity at a national level on expectations for the Senior Phase curriculum; to ensure that it meets the needs of individual learners regardless of their ability, whatever their exit points or intended destinations; and the importance of ensuring equity of access and parity of esteem.
  • Directly support innovation in curriculum planning and design across partners and services, with a focus on supporting transition into and out of the Senior Phase curriculum.
  • Undertake work at a national, local and school level to support full understanding, promotion and signposting of the full range of options available to young people in the Senior Phase curriculum. 

These priorities guided subsequent work by Scottish Government, Education Scotland and other national and local partners on Senior Phase curriculum design, taken forward through the Developing the Young Workforce, the 15-24 Learner Journey Programme and work with education leaders on curriculum pathways. 

3.3.2 Scottish Parliament Education & Skills Committee Inquiries

The Scottish Parliament's Education & Skills committee launched two inquiries looking at young peoples' subject choices and pathways through the Senior Phase Curriculum: Young Peoples' Pathways (June –October 2018) which looked at implementation of Developing the Young Workforce; and Subject Choice in the Senior Phase Curriculum (March-September 2019), with a focus the number of subjects (primarily National Qualifications) young people were studying in the Senior Phase under CfE

A link to all formal evidence submissions, notes of discussions and Scottish Government response can be found in the evidence section below. 

On Senior Phase subject choice, the Committee's final report in September 2019 provided their views on a range of issues to be considered further in relation to the Senior Phase curriculum. In particular:

  • The ability of young people to choose subjects (being clear about the distinction of the number of choices that can be taken and the number of subjects an individual may choose from)
  • Factors affecting schools ability to expand choice (e.g. rurality, size of school, socio-economic factors and location)
  • The relationship between subject choice availability and deprivation
  • The extent to which multi-level classes are being used and their impact
  • The structure of the Senior Phase and its impact on the availability of subject choices, as well as the perceived disconnect between the BGE and the Senior Phase. 
  • The impact of curricular models on the number of different subjects taken by young people in the Senior Phase
  • The impact of size of qualifications on numbers of subjects (the 160 hour qualification size)
  • The impact on specific subjects and which disciplines should continue to be central features of the Senior Phase. 
  • Impact on language learning, modern languages and Gaelic
  • Differing roles and responsibilities of Scottish Government, Education Scotland and the SQA in relation to education policy. 
  • The suite of metrics and analyses needed to evaluate how the education system is  performing in the Senior Phase.

3.3.3 Key Issues To Be Explored By The OECD Review

As set out in the remit published on 26 February 2020, the purpose of this review is to help us better understand how the curriculum is being designed and implemented in schools and to explore key issues that have been raised by stakeholders in recent years. It was agreed this would focus on: 

  • curriculum design
  • depth and breadth of learning in the Senior Phase
  • local flexibility versus increased prescription
  • the transition from the BGE into Senior Phase
  • vocational and academic learning and awards
  • roles and responsibilities in relation to the curriculum

While these are presented below as six separate issues they are inextricably linked at a school level, where actual design and implementation happens, and they are uniquely experienced by individual learners.

Curriculum Design 

Support for curriculum design, since implementation of CfE, began formally in 2009-10 and has moved through different stages, varying the capacity building approaches in response to the needs of practitioners across the system at different times and dependent on resourcing. There has been an increased demand for support over the last four years, reflecting the national stage of CfE  implementation more broadly, especially from secondary leaders as they seek to design a curriculum which meets the needs of all their young people. 

An overview of support for curriculum design is included at section 3.4.2 

In June 2019, an independent survey of secondary headteachers in Scotland was undertaken on behalf of the Scottish Government. The purpose of the survey was to gather information and insights on the provision of Senior Phase curriculum across Scotland, and the factors that were driving curriculum design in Scottish secondary schools. 45% of all headteachers (159 out of 357 Secondary Schools in Scotland) responded to the survey telling us:

  • Almost all (97%) are flexible in their approach and offer individualised timetables where possible. 
  • Almost all (95%) say that young people can shape their Senior Phase and that a wider range of course and options are available for young people than ever before.  
  • Most (85%) feel they are achieving an "integrated, progressive and coherent experience for young people in the Senior Phase"
  • Most (77%) are very confident or confident that their school provides a sufficient variety of learning pathways to meet the needs of all their young people across the Senior Phase. 
  • Most (88%) also felt they had sufficient autonomy to determine the pathways that their school offers in the Senior Phase.
  • Schools offered a wide range of courses and qualifications, including college provision (93% of schools at S5), Duke of Edinburgh Award (91% of schools at S4), Foundation Apprenticeship (94% at S5), and Saltire Awards (69% at S6).
  • Over half started planning for the Senior Phase when young people are in S2.
  • Overall, 90% felt they were able to mostly or completely ensure continuity of learning between the BGE and the Senior Phase.

Curriculum design work: Learner Pathways and Interdisciplinary Learning

From January to March 2020, Education Scotland worked with a design agency and a group of 40 school leaders from across Scotland on two specific curriculum design projects: one on interdisciplinary learning and the other on learner pathways. Both had been identified by practitioners from ongoing curriculum development work and confirmed by inspection findings as areas which would benefit from a specific focus. 

The purpose of the projects was twofold: to develop capacity for design thinking within the groups; and to develop a shared vision for each of these curriculum challenges drawing on the collective learning and experience of the participants. 

The thinking from both projects is appended at Annex D. 

The thinking from the culmination of the Learner Pathways work focused around three areas: perceptions of success in Scottish Schools and how it is measured and recognised; recognition and support for innovative curriculum design, and the need for collaboration to design learner pathways. A selection of their suggestions is set out below:

  • Promote and celebrate what is already working well in schools' pathway design.
  • Realise the opportunities already being trialled by many in our co-design team, and beyond, over the past three years, and take this to the next level:  be prepared to change the structure of school, traditional timetabling, curriculum and allocation of staff and resource, and expect all local authorities and school leaders to respond.
  • Invest in the capability of school teams to lead curriculum innovation and curriculum making. This will require attention to the development of design skills. 
  • Colleges, universities and employers need to be involved in co-designing the thinking curriculum, so that admissions officers and recruiters begin to understand the quality of thinker that comes from a Scottish school. 
  • Schools need to find ways to turn curriculum design from something they do for students and parents, to a co-design activity with them.
  • Ensure the learner remains at the heart and involve them in their journey and provide them with more opportunities for personal reflection.
  • Employers need to understand the learner journeys of their future employees - there's no better way than being involved in their design so that they know how to realise the ambition of young people coming to them.
  • Work collaboratively with cross party politicians and the media to support looking beyond results data and league tables as the measure of young people's achievements and the capabilities of their teachers.

In its final report on its Subject Choice in the Senior Phase Inquiry, the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee was of the view that the implementation of the Senior Phase curriculum had led to many schools attempting to implement a new curriculum within the structure of the previous curriculum, which had resulted in unintended consequences. They recommended research to better understand the impact of different curricular models in different settings.

Depth and breadth of learning in the Senior Phase

Curriculum for Excellence has always been about the totality of learning, with every young person entitled to experience a Senior Phase where he or she can continue to develop the four capacities and also obtain qualifications. This entitlement is clear that "the curriculum in the Senior Phase comprises more than programmes which lead to qualifications. There is a continuing emphasis, for example, on health and wellbeing appropriate to this phase, including physical activity and opportunities for personal achievement, service to others and practical experience of the world of work".

However, there has been much debate recently about the number of subjects and courses secondary schools provide within their Senior Phase curriculum models, particularly in S4.

In its Senior Phase Subject Choice Inquiry Report the Education and Skills Committee acknowledged that there was a wider range of subjects and alternative pathways for pupils to choose from than existed before, but that inevitably there would continue to be instances where pupils were unable to choose every subject they wish to study.

And while the Committee also acknowledged the need to put the issue of subject choices in the wider context of curriculum design, the remit of its inquiry specifically sought to examine whether there was a narrowing of choices in S4. When considering this precise question, they felt that there had been a reduction in the number of subjects available to pupils in S4 in most schools since the introduction of the Senior Phase, which they believed was at least in part a result of the change to the curricular structure. The Committee's view was that the reduction in the number of subjects pupils can take in S4, combined with an often increased number of subjects for pupils to select from, has had a detrimental effect on participation rates in some subjects in S4.

The Committee acknowledged that a Broad General Education with eight curricular areas now exists until S3, rather than S2, and that the intention was to provide pupils with the opportunity to return to subjects later in the Senior Phase. However, it suggested that where the curriculum narrows to five or six subjects in S4, there can be challenges for learners who wish to undertake a broad suite of qualifications in traditional subject areas, such as mathematics, English, sciences, social sciences, arts and languages. It was the view of the Committee that through the flexibility of CfE in meeting the needs of all learners the opportunity to retain a breadth of learning throughout secondary school and to gain a broad set of qualifications at S4 are cornerstones of Scottish education which were in danger of being lost.

At the same time, in their recent (June 2020) report on Secondary Inspection findings: Secondary Curriculum 2016-2019, appended at Annex B, Education Scotland Inspectors note that "increasingly, secondary staff indicate that the focus of professional debate needs to be less about the number of subjects/course and more about how to deliver the Senior Phase entitlement in creative ways. These need to meet the range of young people's needs and develop their skills, attributes and capabilities as well as opportunities to attain qualifications that support positive destinations taking account of the school's unique context". 

Inspectors also note that "the extent to which the curriculum offered leads to positive outcomes for young people depends on a number of factors; it is not just about the number of subjects offered in any one year in the Senior Phase. Some of these factors which contribute to ensuring young people attain and achieve the best they possible can, are: 

  • the quality of leadership of change 
  • the curriculum as experienced by young people in their day-to-day learning, 'the enacted curriculum', which can be linked to the quality of learning and teaching 
  • the effectiveness of the BGE in supporting progression to the Senior Phase 
  • the range and quality of learning pathways provided which best meets the needs of learners within the school." 

Local flexibility v increased prescription

From the outset Curriculum for Excellence has been based on local flexibility and the professional judgement of teachers. Building the Curriculum 3 stated that "Curriculum for Excellence allows for both professional autonomy and responsibility when planning and delivering the curriculum. There are no longer specific input requirements in terms of time allocations. The framework provides flexibility to organise, schedule and deliver the experiences and outcomes in ways that meet the needs of all learners, but also provides reassurance about consistency where necessary. Such flexibility will result in a more varied pattern of curriculum structures to reflect local needs and circumstances." 

This has been reinforced in recent years by the school reform agenda which has increased autonomy for headteachers, acknowledging the role that they have in determining what works for young people in their own schools. 

Education Scotland's (HM Inspectors) recent report Secondary Inspection findings: Secondary Curriculum 2016-2019, appended at Annex B, notes that "secondary headteachers and schools are embracing empowerment to design and deliver a curriculum which meets their own school's local context afforded by Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). 

The Thematic Inspection of Readiness for Empowerment, 2018 and the Thematic Inspection of Empowerment for Curriculum Leadership, 2019 both reported that almost all headteachers and schools feel empowered to make decisions about their curriculum to best meet the needs of their children and young people within the local community. They develop distributive leadership and staff feel empowered to work with pupils, parents/carers and partners with the aim of improving outcomes for learners, reducing inequalities and closing the poverty-related attainment gap. This represents significant progress in the sector.

However, in the course of the Education & Skills Committee Inquiry, and in recent parliamentary debates on Curriculum for Excellence, we heard from a number of people expressing the view that learners in all schools should follow a similar number of courses each year, particularly in S4 and that there should be greater prescription on a core set of subjects in the curriculum. In their final report, the Committee recommended that research be undertaken which considers how many subjects are offered in each year of the Senior Phase, what the core minimum offer is in each school, and the outcomes for pupils in order to provide schools and local authorities across Scotland with information on the challenges and opportunities created by different models to help inform their chosen approach.

Policy on any increased prescription in the curriculum would need to be fully considered within the context of the school empowerment agenda. 

The Transition from the BGE to the Senior Phase

The Broad General Education (BGE) is designed to provider learners from early years to the end of S3 (ages 3-15) with a breadth and depth of skills and knowledge across 8 curriculum areas (expressive arts, health and wellbeing, languages, mathematics, religious and moral education, sciences, social studies and technologies):  This includes literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing across learning which are the responsibility of all staff. The last three years of the BGE sit within the S1 to S3 structure in secondary where curriculum areas are usually planned for in discrete subjects. During the Broad General Education learners work through experiences and outcomes organised within 5 curriculum levels (early level to 4th level).   

A CfE level will take approximately 2-3 academic years to complete meaning that most learners will enter S1 having achieved at second level. Most learners will complete 3rd level across all curriculum areas by the end of S3, and many will be undertaking aspects of 4th level learning by the end of S3.  Some will have completed the 4th level in some or all curriculum areas. That broad base of learning at the end of S3 is intended to provide learners with a strong platform of learning from which to select personal pathways through their Senior Phase from S4 (ages 3-18).

The BGE was designed to take 3 years in secondary (ending S3) – extending the previous structure by a year. This was with a view to ensuring that learners had enough time to explore a range of curriculum areas and subjects, discover their passions and interests and make sound choices in relation to study in the Senior Phase. The extra year of the BGE also allowed more time for learners to develop secure levels of achievement and attainment which could be used as a solid foundation for more advanced and specialised study in the Senior Phase. Some commentators (Reform Scotland and Jim Scott, University of Dundee) have argued that the extra year of BGE has meant less time for study in the Senior Phase and ultimately a narrowing of Senior Phase choice and learners gaining fewer qualifications compared to the previous structure. 

The Scottish Government and Education Scotland have been clear that learning for courses leading to qualifications in the Senior Phase does not need to begin from a 'standing start'. Practitioners should use the skills and knowledge learners have gained in the BGE as a basis for delivery of Senior Phase learning. This means learners should not have to cover learning that they may have already encountered in the BGE. To illustrate, in many cases, key aspects of learning at the third and fourth curriculum levels will be directly relevant to learning which needs to be demonstrated to gain national qualifications and other awards.  (Note the fourth curriculum level broadly equates to SCQF level 4.)  

In their report Quality & Improvement in Scottish Education, 2016, Education Scotland Inspectors found that many schools needed to develop the "quality of the broad general education they offer in the first three years of secondary school, to ensure it provides sufficient depth and challenge to enable all learners to achieve their potential" . This analysis was supported by the SQA's field work studies with learners in both 2016 and 2017.

As such, in March 2018, the Curriculum and Assessment Board focus on the Senior Phase noted that future priorities included ensuring S1–3 consistently provides sufficient depth and breadth of skills and knowledge to fully enable young people to get the most out of their Senior Phase.

This has also been flagged in Education Scotland's (HM Inspectors ) recent report Secondary Inspection findings: Secondary Curriculum 2016-2019, which noted that "although most schools offer such opportunities for specialisation at fourth level in S3 to support the transition to the Senior Phase, pathways through the BGE do not always support young people in progressing from their prior levels of attainment". This report goes on to note however that "staff welcomed the updated national guidance published in 2016 which provided clarification on expectations of S3 in relation to the transition from the BGE to the Senior Phase and that most schools are beginning to improve their arrangements in S3 in the BGE because too often progression routes in the BGE are not providing learning which allow young people to make a smooth transition to the Senior Phase. They are aiming to ensure the offer of specialisation effectively supports additional depth and challenge, while ensuring that learners continue to receive the entitlements of the BGE". It goes on to provide examples of practice in improving the BGE in S3. 

Transition between the BGE and the Senior Phase was also a key issue flagged in the Education & Skills Committee Inquiry, with its final report flagging the need to ensure greater progression and coherence between learning in the BGE and the Senior Phase. The Committee was of the view that this was the result of problems during the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence, and that issues still remain in some schools in ensuring a better transition from S3 to S4. They had found, however, that teachers and schools had worked hard to reduce the lack of coherence between the broad general education and the Senior Phase.

Vocational and academic learning and awards

Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) 2014 states an ambition for collaboration between colleges and schools and our ambition for a world-class system of vocational education, in which colleges work with schools and employers to deliver learning that is directly relevant to getting a job and building a career through further and higher education.

As these partnerships have strengthened, we have seen an expansion in curriculum provision in secondary schools that includes an increasingly diverse range of courses delivered primarily by colleges; the development of a new qualification – the Foundation Apprenticeship; the introduction of a national standard for careers education and work placements in school; and new networks to facilitate cross system working, including the development of the national DYW leads network where leads in support of DYW come together from local authorities, colleges and the DYW Regional Groups.

There has been a year on year increase of these opportunities taken up by learners since DYW was introduced. 5,page  young people were enrolled on these courses as of 2017/18, an increase of 692 in 2016/17 (when the figure was 4,510) and an increase of 3,101 since the baseline in 2013/14 (when the figure was 2,101).

DYW has set the agenda for establishing and embedding a range of learning options, offering more choice to all learners. However, more work needs to be done to reduce regional variances in the curriculum offer to ensure that all young people have access to a relevant breadth of choice to meet their needs.

From engagement with practitioners and stakeholders in recent years we are seeing examples of creative and innovative curriculum approaches across Scotland. We are seeing good examples of collaboration between schools and their partners, including colleges and youth work, and increased use of digital learning approaches, through approaches such as E-Sgoil. As a result, increasing numbers of young people are able to access more flexible learning pathways into Further Education, Higher Education, training and employment, which better reflect their learning styles and abilities. And young people themselves have greater learner agency, becoming more and more involved in designing and shaping their own learning pathways. 

15-24 Learner Journey Review

In 2016 the 15-24 Learner Journey Review was undertaken with the aim of "reviewing the learning journey for all 15-24 year olds to ensure that education provision for young people is as effective and efficient as possible and provides more stepping stones for those needing most support."  It specifically focused on the 15-24 stage of learning, recognising that this was a critical point for young people in their learning journey, being the point of greatest choice and, potentially, overlap in provision.

The publication of the 15-24 Learner Journey Review Report on 10 May 2018 followed extensive engagement with stakeholders and young people from across the education and skills system throughout 2017. Engagement throughout the Review highlighted that:

  • Scotland is rightly proud of its education and skills system, which continues to deliver excellence and equity for so many of our young people.  However, we need all of our young people to get as much as possible from that system. 
  • Many young people feel there is a disconnect between the personal support, advice and guidance they receive on subject choices and on longer term learning and career options.
  • Additional focus is needed to secure genuine parity of esteem across the vocational and academic offer available to young people to ensure that all learners have access to a more balanced range of options that are valued equally. 
  • We need to improve the alignment of courses so that our learners are able to progress through the post-15 education system as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

As part of the review, research was undertaken with young people themselves on their experiences of the education and skills system. Amongst other things, this told us:

  • At a national level we had a job to do in explaining how each component part of our educational structure is part of a single system, geared at presenting a coherent vision for post-15 education in Scotland.
  • Some young people felt the focus on attainment and qualifications within schools was not giving them the skills required to succeed in life, learning and work. As a result, some felt ill-prepared for life after school and this had a negative impact on their learner journeys. 
  • Young people felt there was a lack of parity of esteem between vocational and academic career pathways. A number of young people felt schools viewed university as the top destination for leavers, with college being the preferred second choice. 
  • In terms of subject choices, many young people reported a tension between choosing subjects that they enjoyed or were good at versus those that were perceived to offer better career opportunities. They also requested more guidance and support to be made available to inform subject choices, including information on the implications of these on future opportunities.

Education Scotland's (HM Inspectors ) Secondary Inspection findings: Secondary Curriculum 2016-2019 noted that "secondary schools have been successful in increasing the range of learning pathways to better meet the needs of young people at risk of leaving school without a positive destination. The broadening range of learning pathways needs to be further developed especially for those 'middle attaining' young people". 

However, they also recognised that "young people do not always have a good understanding of the range of pathways and courses available to them, particularly vocational courses. Relatively small numbers of young people are participating in Foundation Apprenticeships in most schools. Staff need to improve young people's understanding of the pathways through and beyond school from an earlier stage" 

Roles and responsibilities in relation to the curriculum

Accountability for the curriculum in schools is a shared responsibility across Scottish Government, National Bodies including SQA and Education Scotland, local government and schools. 

As set out on page 16, the Scottish Government sets the national policy context and is accountable for the performance of the system. Education Scotland and SQA are responsible for supporting successful implementation and ensuring quality of the curriculum and qualifications, respectively. Local authorities have a statutory responsibility for the delivery of education and its quality at local level.  Headteachers in schools are responsible for ensuring a curriculum that meets the needs of young people in their school.

In their final report on the Subject Choice Inquiry, the Education & Skills Committee were of the view that the decision-making system in Scottish education confuses the implementation of policy. While ultimate accountability for the performance of Scottish education rests with the Cabinet Secretary, the Scottish Government should clarify the respective roles of Education Scotland, the SQA, Regional Improvement Collaboratives and local authorities in supporting schools in delivering the Curriculum for Excellence, and how the contributions of each of these levels of the system are assessed and improved. In particular, the Committee recommended that the purpose and role of Regional Improvement Collaboratives be made clear.

  • Further evidence can be found at:

Curriculum and Assessment Board – Key Papers on CfE Implementation 

Other key papers

Education & Skills Committee Inquiries

Parliamentary Debates on Curriculum for Excellence

3.4 Policy Development, Implementation And Monitoring 

3.4.1 Policy Development

A timeline setting out the key milestones in the development of Curriculum for Excellence is set out in Annex A. 

Real and active partnerships are the hallmark of the Scottish education system, with CfE being one of the key examples of how partners across the system come together to develop and deliver the curriculum.  

While a range of national resources has been developed, a considered decision was taken not to produce a set of national teaching and assessment documents for all aspects of the curriculum, thereby encouraging local innovation. Our emphasis has been on developing a range of important professional development opportunities. 

Role of Curriculum and Assessment Board (CAB) in supporting policy development and implementation of CfE 

The Curriculum and Assessment Board (CAB) is the key forum for oversight of curriculum and assessment activity in Scotland. The role of the Board is to provide leadership and oversight of the curriculum and assessment policy framework

in Scottish education. Its remit is as follows:

  • To consider the existing curriculum and assessment policy framework and make recommendations to Ministers on the best means of supporting improvement of the policy framework, including improvements relating to the nature of teaching, learning, building curricula, qualifications and assessment at all levels of the system.
  • To identify issues which need to be addressed nationally and regionally to fulfil the intention that Curriculum for Excellence be a truly school, practitioner and teacher-led curriculum, in partnership with other education providers, and recommend action to address such issues to Ministers. 
  • To maintain an overview of both research on curriculum and assessment policy and practice, and international developments in relation to curriculum and assessment policy.

Policy development at a local level

The nature of education in Scotland means that individual local authorities play a significant part in policy development.  Principally through the Association of Directors of Education (ADES) local authority personnel make a significant contribution to the Curriculum and Assessment Board, for example. One of Scotland's Directors of Education recently chaired the preparatory work that led to the Refreshed Curriculum Narrative.

Policy development also takes place at a local level.  Indeed, under the Empowerment agenda and the drive for a self-improving schools' approach, each individual school has an obligation to ensure that the nature and quality of education offered to its children and young people is designed to meet their identified learning needs. In order to achieve this, each school will identify and address the learning needs of the children and young people in its own community.  Across Scotland, individual schools develop and work to a unique 'curriculum rationale', which becomes the basis of the school's approaches to addressing identified needs.  This rationale should be developed and agreed with a range of key stakeholders, including staff, parents and carers, local partners and, vitally, the children and young people of the school community.

3.4.2 Support For Implementation

Role of Education Scotland in supporting implementation

Education Scotland works very closely with partners across all aspects of the education system to build capacity and secure improvement.  Its priorities are focused on supporting effective delivery of all key areas of Scottish Government' education policy.  Close involvement with Ministers, policymakers, stakeholders and national Governance Boards ensures Education Scotland is central to policy development, implementation and monitoring in Scotland.  

Following publication of Education Governance: Next Steps  (June 2017), which set out a significantly enhanced role and purpose for Education Scotland, its focus involved a move to greater regional working and support for the development of the six Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs).   Education Scotland restructured over 2018-19 to ensure more direct capacity building with practitioners, schools, local authorities and RICs though 6 Regional Teams led by Senior regional Advisers.  Education Scotland works directly and collaboratively with all key partners to help deliver excellence and equity within Scottish education, to improve attainment and to achieve sustained and positive destinations. Through engaging with stakeholders and working in close partnership it provides support, advice, resources and professional learning and leadership to continuously add value to Scottish education.  

Education Scotland's work aims to create synergies across education by supporting, challenging and advising all educational professionals and stakeholders, including those within RICs; education authorities, schools, early learning and childcare providers, colleges and the community learning and development. Through closer working at national, regional and local authority level, and with practitioners, Education Scotland creates more sustainable professional networks which facilitate the sharing of best practice, promoting improvements in learning, teaching and assessment, whilst ensuring focus remains on delivering the best educational experience and outcomes for learners.

Annex F sets out further evidence of Education Scotland's capacity building, advice and resources, engagement and professional learning to provide support and challenge for practitioners.

Education Scotland support for curriculum design: 2009/10 – present.

As the Curriculum framework began to be implemented from 2009-10, at a focus and pace in ways that were appropriate locally, Education Scotland (and predecessors) networked early thinkers in 'curriculum architecture'. The emphasis on that work was on the aspiration of Building the Curriculum 3 (BtC3) and structuring the Broad General Education and Senior Phase.  That early stage aimed to illustrate hypothetically how a curriculum offer would be set out and timetabled, particularly in a secondary school context.  Engagement through a few events and web-based exemplars attracted interest and comment, raising questions that indicated key aspects of BtC3 had yet to be fully understood by practitioners and development work remained on practical use of the curriculum Experiences and Outcomes in learning and teaching. The system was not yet ready for the 'curriculum architecture' aspect of transformation.

Progress in developments slowed over 2012-14 as secondary schools focused on preparing courses for the new qualifications (an aspect that has been ongoing since due to continued changes to qualifications) and staffing changes and reductions within Education Scotland reduced national capacity. 

2014 /15 marked a second stage of support for curriculum design with the publication of the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce. The Developing the Young workforce (DYW) programme was set up from start of session 2014/15 as a 7 year programme.  It was clear that it was a curriculum development and design ask and that it had the potential to be the vehicle for the 'full realisation' of CfE. (i.e. full application of BtC 3 and BtC 4). 

The major share of funding for DYW was allocated to the setting up of regional employer led groups (now 21 in total across Scotland) - funding for these groups is committed until 2025.  For the first two years of the programme (until end financial year March 2016) some funding was allocated to directly support schools and to Education Scotland.  During this limited time Education Scotland, working with key partners including SDS, colleges and employers generating substantial energy and interest in our curriculum and how we shaped it.

Three documents were developed at pace in the first full year of DYW to help define the 'what' as it related to schools.  Education Scotland worked in close partnership with Scottish Government  and led on two of the three. All were presented as a package in September 2015. The work on both the Career Education Standard 3-18 and the Work Placements Standard was carried out in co-design and co-production with practitioners, specialist groups and national partners. Design thinking approaches were developed and used. At the same time as this work was developing, the partners required to make the identified changes were being brought together in action-focussed learning events. For many school leaders this was the first time they had discussed the curriculum – the 'school offer' - with partners such as employers in a way that allowed partners to challenge, add value or offer expertise. Education Scotland continues to facilitate cross-partnership networking to share learning about the curriculum.

During the first year of DYW implementation (2014/15), it became clear that there was a need to build further support and develop capacity in curriculum design. In particular, to meet the challenges of transformation through curriculum design at scale across Scotland,  there was a need to explore and understand how new groups of partners could work together with schools to co-design and co- deliver a wider range of pathways and courses for young people in the Senior Phase. 

In 2016 Education Scotland procured the services of SNOOK – a service design agency - to plan and run a one-day design workshop with a clear focus on the creative process and tools/approaches being developed and used and their direct transfer for use in local settings. The intention was to use day one as a prototype/small test of change and then use the learning in the emerging regions. Up to 40 participants were invited to the workshop. Participants were representative of the wider system and included colleagues from local authorities, colleges, schools, employer groups, parents, the residential and secure sector, training and third sector groups, and relevant national partners. This was the first time many of them had come together.   All were known to have had recent and relevant experience of curriculum design or thinking in relation to DYW and/or the Senior Phase. 

From the ending of DYW funding in April 2016 Education Scotland looked to consolidate, sustain and build on the small tests of change. For example, we tapped into emerging capabilities from other areas of funded work, e.g. in leadership development (SCEL), the use of data (NIF, Insight), evaluation (inspection), interventions (SAC).  ES mainstreamed DYW into other areas of Education Scotland work: Creativity, STEM, Inspection, other curriculum areas. ES focussed energies on support for the Career Education Standard 3-18, the Senior Phase and on sustaining partnerships to maintain momentum. ES also began to promote a focus on the S1 to S3 stage of the BGE to ensure more creative curriculum design and smoother pathways for learners. 

Over 2018/19 Education Scotland worked with partners on developing the Refreshed Narrative for Scotland's Curriculum and 'mainstreamed' the DYW learning.  The Refreshed Narrative, published in September 2019,  has generated significant interest that we are currently building on by focussing on how it can be used to support curriculum change. This includes, for example, developing tools that enable stories to be told (e.g. examples through Covid-19 schools' lockdown).  In our work with school leaders we had noted how challenging it was for them to articulate their own stories of innovation and curriculum design and have sought to understand with them what works best.  The next phase of development work will take account of this issue to ensure opportunities for schools / leaders to learn from others are maximised.

 In 2019/20 Education Scotland has used small amounts of funding to:

  • invest in ES staff capability by building capacity in service design skills
  • using small grants to stimulate curriculum innovation in schools
  • work in co-design with school leaders to clarify thinking on Learner Pathways and IDL- see papers in Annex D. 

Local authority/ RICS support for implementation 

Local authorities play a crucial part in support for implementation of Curriculum for Excellence.  As well as contributing to national-level developments, through participation of local authority staff, local authorities also play a very important role at a school and community level.  Again, this takes place in thirty two authorities across Scotland. The nature of this support varies and takes different forms. This includes support for individual schools; support at  Cluster or neighbourhood level; authority-wide support and guidance and, finally, local authority participation in, and contribution to, the work of Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs). Some examples of emerging practice at a local authority level are provided at Annex E.  

3.4.3. Monitoring (see also section 3.2.5 on evaluation and review)

  • Role of ES (HM Inspectors of Education) on inspection/ monitoring

The approach to scrutiny in Scotland, including inspection undertaken by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Education supports improvement as well as providing assurance on quality and improvement in Scottish education in order to promote the highest standards of learning leading to better outcomes for all learners.

Learners and users are at the heart of inspection and we give priority to evaluating the experiences of all learners and users.

HM Inspectors observe learning first hand across the country and make professional judgements about the quality of children's and young people's learning, and the outcomes which they achieve. In making professional judgements HM Inspectors  gather a range of evidence. This evidence comes from quantitative data and information, the views of people involved with the organisation such as staff, learners, parents, partners, documentation and from what HM Inspectors observe.

During school inspections HM Inspectors  use the Quality Indicators contained within the sector-specific quality frameworks to evaluate and report on the quality of education being provided.  HM Inspectors take  into account the context and nature of the establishment, its learners and their needs. HM Inspectors focus on how an establishment or service is performing, the impact it is having on improving outcomes for children and young people and the capacity for continuous improvement.

The quality frameworks used by HM Inspectors are designed to enable providers to undertake self-evaluation using the same framework which inspectors use to evaluate the quality of education provision as part of inspection. These quality frameworks are developed in partnership with stakeholders.  Using the same frameworks enables HM Inspectors  to help build capacity in the education system through have a shared understanding of expected standards of what high quality education looks like and a standard of high quality provision for all children and young people that should be achievable by all schools. 

School inspections places an importance on exploring the extent to which an establishment has the ability to self-evaluate and drive its own improvement. HM Inspectors  start an inspection by understanding the school's self-evaluation. HM Inspectors  work with staff to identify key themes from self-evaluation which will help to focus inspection activity. Where a provider has identified a priority for improvement and has taken action to make improvements, HM INSPECTORS  recognise this thus verifying the school's own evaluation and supporting their journey of continuous improvement. At the end of the inspection, HM Inspectors report on the provider's capacity for continuous improvement.

As well as publishing the inspection report for individual schools on Education Scotland's website, HM Inspectors  also share with the school and publish a Summarised Inspection Findings document which outlines in more detail evidence gathered by HM Inspectors.  By doing this schools have a strong evidence base which they can use to build on successes and plan further improvements. 

At the end of the inspection HM Inspectors provide a report to the school outlining strengths and areas for improvement.  Where HM Inspectors identify that the quality of education is not good enough for children and young people and the approach to improvement at a local level is not working HM Inspectors  continue to engage with the school and  undertake further inspection activity to support schools to address areas for improvement and help secure better outcomes for learners. HM Inspectors report on the progress a service / establishment has made to address areas for improvement. 

During school inspections HM Inspectors give priority to supporting improvement through constructive professional dialogue. This is one of HM Inspectors' most valuable tools for supporting improvement when engaging with staff during inspections. School's value the dialogue with HM Inspectors because the discussions can be strongly contextualised to particular local concerns. They also value the knowledge HM Inspectors have of quality frameworks, practice observed across the country and national policy.  Through professional dialogue, HM Inspectors signpost effective practice from which others can learn and offer advice and guidance about improved ways of working. This promotes improvement and innovation.

In Scotland we use the evidence gathered through inspection to promote improvement at a local and national level. At a local level inspection teams gather evidence and evaluate what is working well and areas for improvement in order to promote improvement within a service / establishment.

The scope of our HM Inspectors' activities at a local level gives a unique evidence base drawn from observing practice at first hand across the country. This evidence base enables HM Inspectors to draw conclusions and provide a national overview of the quality of education.  HM Inspectors use this evidence to offer independent advice to the Scottish Government on the education system as a whole highlighting what is going well; where there are key challenges and where there is a need for further support.

Across all if its scrutiny and inspection work HM Inspectors encourage schools to share learning and build on each other's successes. HM Inspectors achieve this by identifying and sharing outstanding and highly effective practice more widely so that others can learn from it. This supports a culture of collaboration within and across schools to drive innovation and collective improvement.

HM Inspectors' approaches to scrutiny and inspection make use of the collective expertise within Scottish education to promote improvement. HM Inspectors do not always carry out inspections on their own. They value the knowledge, skills and expertise of current practitioners from across sectors, so in almost all inspection teams HM Inspectors  are joined by practitioners from the relevant sector. These practitioners are known as Associate Assessors.

​Associates Assessors also benefit from being part of inspection teams. They develop skills, knowledge and understanding from undertaking training with and working alongside HM Inspectors. They gather valuable experience of evaluating practice using quality frameworks and observing practice in other parts of Scotland. This helps to build their capacity in evaluating quality and improvement in education  and making improvements in their own school.  HM Inspectors' expectation is that Associate Assessors sharing their experience of with others across their local authority. In doing so, HM Inspectors  build capacity in the education system through the network of Associate Assessors  using their experience  to maximum impact to support their journey of continuous improvement in their own school and locality.

A report setting out key inspection findings from Secondary School Inspections between 2016-19 is attached at Annex B to this document. This briefing draws on a range of evidence including: 

  • a sample of 56 secondary school inspections where inspectors evaluated the learning pathways theme for QI 2.2 Curriculum from the three-year period 2016/17 to 2018/19 
  • the views of young people, parents/ carers and teachers from pre-inspection questionnaires for all the inspections carried out in secondary schools 2018/19. In 2018-19, 18,885 young people, 4542 parents and 1976 teachers completed the pre-inspection questionnaires for the 27 Local Authority secondary and all through schools which were inspected between August 2018 and June 2019. 
  • the Thematic Inspection of personal and social education/health and wellbeing in Scotland's schools and early learning and childcare settings, 2018, Thematic Inspection of Readiness for Empowerment, 2018, Thematic Inspection of Empowerment for Curriculum Leadership, 2019, and National thematic inspection: numeracy and mathematics, 2019. 
  • focus groups of HM Inspectors from the Secondary School Inspection Team.

3.5 Policy Communication 

3.5.1 Strategic Approach To Communications 

Throughout the development and implementation of Curriculum for Excellence, there has been a focus on communications, with a number of stakeholder groups set up over the years to support this. 

A CfE Communications Group existed from 2010 to 2015, which comprised Scottish Government, SQA and Education Scotland. It shared and co-ordinated communications activities across the organisations involved on the group and reported to the Implementation Group on events and raised priorities for communications activities with the Group. 

In 2014 an overarching Communications Strategy was developed, which was co-ordinated by the CfE Implementation Board over subsequent years. The communications leads from each organisation met regularly and a comms update was provided at each CfE management Board. This plan had a focus on providing direct information to practitioners, sharing good practice and pro-active communications with parents. 

In 2018/2019 a Curriculum Narrative Strategic Engagement Group was established alongside the development of the refreshed curriculum narrative. It is notionally chaired by Education Scotland and includes representation from:

  • The Scottish Government
  • The Scottish Qualifications Authority 
  • Skills Development Scotland
  • The EIS
  • Community Learning and Development Managers Scotland
  • The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Partnership
  • Early Years Scotland; and
  • Colleges Scotland.

The group's progress has stalled because of the Covid-19 pandemic but an updated communications strategy from the group was in the early stages of development


In 2019, the Scottish Government brought together a wide range of partners to consider how we use the period leading up to SQA Exam Results Day in August 2019 to reflect the diversity of the Senior Phase of young people's education and celebrate all learners' achievements, whatever they might be. 

Partners worked jointly to highlight and celebrate the range of learner pathways available, under the banner of the #MyLearnerJourney social media campaign on Twitter.  The campaign was very successful in drawing the attention of practitioners, learners, parents, employers and other stakeholders to the need for achievement to be viewed as more than just results in one year, and to wide range of pathways available towards successful careers.  

The objectives of the campaign were to: 

  • Creatively highlight our collective efforts to ensure young people secure positive destinations which are right for them.
  • Showcase and celebrate young people's achievements across a range of awards, qualifications and pathways, and not just those certificated on Results Day.
  • Showcase examples where educational settings are offering young people a varied Senior Phase offering, tailored to their needs and aspirations, and/or local needs. 
  • Emphasise the purpose of the Senior Phase curriculum is to provide young people with the skills, knowledge and experiences that will prepare them for their life beyond school and provide them with the best possible opportunity to fulfil their potential.

The key messages promoted were:

  • There is no wrong pathway for our young people; everyone's learner journey is different. 
  • School is about ensuring every young people is able to fulfil their potential by attaining the highest level of qualifications possible and by receiving the best possible experience.
  • Our curriculum is designed to ensure our young people become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. 
  • It is a moment of equal celebration if a young person gets a modern apprenticeship, enters the world of work or gets to college or university. 
  • Increased collaboration between industry and education means the routes into employment available are the most diverse they have ever been and the uptake in vocational qualifications has increased substantially year on year. 

A toolkit was also developed in conjunction with partners, to enable these messages to be jointly promoted alongside individually planned activity.  

The intention had been to continue this work for this year's exams results, however that was not possible in light of COVID 19.

Most recently a Curriculum Narrative Strategic Engagement Group was established alongside the development of the refreshed curriculum narrative. It is notionally chaired by Education Scotland and also includes representation from:

  • The Scottish Government
  • The Scottish Qualifications Authority 
  • Skills Development Scotland
  • The EIS
  • Community Learning and Development Managers Scotland
  • The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Partnership
  • Early Years Scotland; and
  • Colleges Scotland.

The group's progress has stalled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic but an updated communications strategy was in the early stages of development. 

Local communications and support 

It is important to note, that communications around Curriculum for Excellence are not always 'top down' in nature, as much of this is driven by teachers in classrooms, schools and local authorities. Regional Improvement Collaboratives also have a strong focus on curriculum improvement support and clarity in curriculum making.

Curriculum for Excellence 'comes alive', essentially, in classrooms across Scotland.  The structure of education in Scotland means that local authorities have responsibility for the nature and quality of what happens in classrooms across Scotland.

In this system, communication, necessarily, will take various forms, depending on the nature and purpose of the communication.  As well as nationally-driven communication, local authorities take responsibility for communicating with staff about Curriculum for Excellence.  This will happen in different ways, including at regular head teacher meetings; via Glow and local authority digital platforms; through development of local authority policy and guidance (based on national advice) and, of course at a Cluster and school level.  Other examples of important communication on curriculum and pedagogy would include induction sessions for new head teachers.

3.5.2 Main Communications Channels 

Much of the communications and engagement work on Curriculum for Excellence is taken forward at a local level, by national bodies working closely with local authorities, schools and practitioner networks to support and engage with them on the development of their curriculum approaches, for example through the National DYW Leads Network . 

There are a number of key national websites that are the main vehicles for national communications such as

These are listed in the evidence section below and are just a sample of main sources of information for practitioners and parents. There are many others, including those on specific subject areas.  

Often key developments are communicated directly to schools, local authorities and their partners through direct communications such as letter and emails, for example Graeme Logan, Director of Learning, wrote directly to all Headteachers and College Principals in September 2019 setting out early plans for the review of the curriculum. 

3.6 Engagement Of Stakeholders

Education in Scotland is delivered collaboratively, with local and national partners working together to jointly plan, implement and monitor progress. As such CfE is delivered largely by consensus and without statutory underpinning, although clearly there are legal requirements that govern certain aspects of education. 

3.6.1 Governance/ Working Groups

Throughout the development of CfE this co-design approach has been facilitated by a number of different governance and working groups, as well as through ongoing engagement and collaboration across the country. 

The following groups played a key role in the development of CfE and the development of the National Qualifications:

CfE Management Board: The Curriculum for Excellence Management Board existed from 2007 to 2017  and had overall responsibility for ensuring that the programme of curriculum change is delivered.  

Members were: Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES); Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS); College Development Network (CDN); Community Learning and Development Manager Group (CLDMG); Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA); Education Scotland; Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS); General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS); National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers Scotland (NASUWT); National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS); School Leaders Scotland (SLS); Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS); Scottish Government; Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA); Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC); Skills Development Scotland (SDS); and Universities Scotland.

Its function was absorbed into CAB in December 2017.

CfE Implementation Group existed from 2012  to 2017  and brought together those who were directly responsible for major aspects of delivery of Curriculum for Excellence.  CfE Implementation Group.  .  Its function was absorbed into CAB along with the CfE Management Board in December 2017.

Membership comprised senior representatives of the key bodies which were accountable for major aspects of the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence:

  • Education Scotland
  • Scottish Government
  • Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Scotland's Colleges

Curriculum and Assessment Board, established in 2017, is currently the key forum for oversight of curriculum and assessment activity in Scotland. The role of the Board is to provide leadership and oversight of the curriculum and assessment policy framework in Scottish education.  The Board considers the actions which are needed to ensure Curriculum for Excellence fully delivers for all children and young people and   supports the work of the Scottish Education Council however it  is directly accountable to Scottish Ministers. The Board is chaired jointly by the Director of Learning, Scottish Government and the Chief Inspector of Education and Chief Executive of Education Scotland

3.6.2 Parents

Scottish education has a long history of involving parents in decision making. The modern framework which underpins the rights of parents to be involved and engaged in their children's learning comes from the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 and more recently through the Scottish Government's 'Learning Together' National Action Plan on parental involvement, parental engagement, family learning and learning at home. 

The Scottish approach to parental engagement and involvement is based on ensuring parents are actively involved in the life and work of their children's school and engaged in their children's learning. To achieve this the Scottish Government's focus has been to improve the rights and opportunities for parents to  be actively involved in decision making processes at a local and national level.

Schools and local authorities have a duty to produce local plans which set out how they will continue to promote the involvement and engagement of parents in their schools, how they will include parents in school improvement planning and how they will continue to ensure parents are kept informed as to their children's educational progress. This ensures that parents can continue to support their children's learning and contribute to planning and prioritisation of education delivery at a local level.

For many years, at a national level, the Scottish Government and Education Scotland have both continued to develop and support the policy and development of best practice in the fields of parental involvement, parental engagement, family learning and learning at home and facilitated the direct engagement of parents in national decision making processes.

Since 2009  the Scottish Government has supported and funded the Nation Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS) to represent the independent voice of parents in Scottish education. Since their foundation the NPFS, who are a group of volunteer representatives from across Scotland's 32 local authorities have held a place on the main educational decision making groups and boards. The forum has also contributed to the development and review of many of the past and current education policy and approaches in Scottish education over the last decade. The NPFS also provide a range of 'in a nutshell' series guides for parents which break down aspects of the Scottish education system in to a parent friendly format. This includes nutshell guides on:  Empowering Parents and Carers, The National Improvement Framework, Curriculum for Excellence, Developing the Young Workforce, Achievement, Assessment and Qualifications and "Nationals in a Nutshell" – a series of individual Nutshell guide for every National subject area.

The Scottish Government's also supports and engages with a range of other national bodies and organisations who represent or support parents and the engagement of schools with parents and Parent Council's including; Connect – a national charity providing training and advice to schools and Parent Councils and the Scottish Parental Involvement officers network who represent local authority staff who are responsible for improving and supporting school engagement with parents in each of Scotland's 32 local authorities.

The Scottish Government and Education Scotland also support the 'learning together' national network on parental involvement, parental engagement, family learning and learning at home which brings together a broad range of stakeholders including academics, third sector bodies, parents and practitioners. The aim of the network is to promote the sharing of information, learning and good practice across Scotland and to provide an opportunity for members to become 'champions of parental engagement and involvement' who commit to improving practice in their fields and localities. 

3.6.3 Learners

Scotland's curriculum takes a rights based approach as well providing learner with a number of core entitlements. This is most notably expressed through GIRFEC which underpins the delivery of education in Scotland but it is also expressed through Scotland commitment to the United Nations Convention on The Rights Of The Child. In particular Article 12 of the UNCRC which states that  'Every child has a right to be heard and listened to in matters that affect them' is acted upon by ensuring that children and young people have the opportunity to express their views in the classroom and impact upon decisions made about local and national education delivery and planning.

Learners are engaged at a national level in the development of education policy to ensure that decisions made reflect the views and opinions of those who will be directly affected by them. Learners are also regularly involved in the top governance meetings and discussions regarding education policy, practice and direction to ensure this. Examples of bespoke learner engagement in substantive reviews of elements of the education system include SQA engagement with learners in reviewing the future of assessment in Scotland, GTCS learner review of professional teaching standards in Scotland and the 'excit.ed report' which gathered learner input in to governance, excellence and equity in Scottish education as part of the ongoing governance review on Scottish Education.

Following the 2018 Scottish Year of Young People, which celebrated the contribution that young people in Scotland make nationally and locally, the Scottish Government reviewed the role of children and young people in education policy making and our structures for facilitating this. In order to formalise this role and ensure greater learner input in to national education decision making a 'Scottish Learner Panel' pilot project was established comprising of approximately 30 children and young people from nine school settings, including nursery, primary and secondary schools from across Scotland.  During the first year of the learner panel project members explored a range of topics which were identified as being a priority for policy makers and learners. In September 2019 the panel delivered their first report setting out the views of learners on education policy, practice and delivery to the Scottish Government. The report set out a number of areas for officials and decision makers to consider when reviewing and creating education policy and guidance.  Plans for a refreshed panel are being brought together to ensure learner input to the education recovery work in relation to Covid-19.

At a school level, for a number of years, practitioners and school leaders have been encouraged to think about how they can include learners in the design and the delivery of the curriculum locally. This includes involving learners in the planning of lessons, in school evaluation and improvement planning and empowering learners to take an active role in shaping their school communities. This is reflected in the How Good is Our School self-evaluation framework and the Scottish Government's published guidance on empowering learners.

3.6.4 National And Local Networks

Many other networks exist across the country, such as subject or sectors specific ones. More information on these can be found in the evidence on support for implementation at Annex F. Two examples of these are: 

The National DYW Leads Network connects the local authority, college, employer group and national partner leads. It is facilitated by Education Scotland, meets quarterly and is hosted by the partners in the network. The Network provides a platform for regular dialogue, information sharing,  identification of key issues and solution focus collaboration. The Network has developed the 'Measuring impact tool' from a School Data Gathering exercise and the School Employer Partnership Framework.

The Learner Journey (Senior Phase) Working Group was established in September 2018 to facilitate collaboration across national and local partners and practitioners in driving forward improvements on the Senior Phase curriculum, stemming from the 15-25 Learner Journey Review. Amongst other things it aimed to: 

  • Ensure all Senior Phase related actions emerging from the 15-24 Learner Journey Review, Developing the Young Workforce (DYW), the Curriculum and Assessment Board (CAB), the Commission on Widening Access (COWA) and are taken forward in a coherent and systematic way, enabling a holistic focus on the full range of learner journeys that young people make.
  • Provide an ongoing focus on transition and progression into and out of the Senior Phase, connecting with work in the Broad General Education and post-15 education and skills landscape.
  • Tell the story of how practice is changing in Scottish education by identifying, sharing and building on examples of innovative practice across Scotland.
  • Build capacity and provide support for curriculum design at a national and local level so that the aforementioned innovative practice becomes more widespread.

3.6.5 Local Engagement Activities

Local authorities take very seriously their approaches to engaging stakeholders in curriculum development. Even before the term 'Empowerment' was being used widely in Scottish education, the prevalent approach in local authorities across the country was one of the centrality of engaging staff in the development of advice, guidance and practice.   To support this engagement, local authorities make effective use of a range of networks to ensure that staff are engaged in developing practice and that the views of staff, as professionals, are welcomed.  This includes:

  • Subject networks (Secondary schools)
  • Networks of Principal Teachers
  • Networks of Depute Head teachers
  • Early Years networks
  • Curriculum networks (e.g. Literacy and numeracy networks)
  • Engagement of staff in key local authority groups to address issues of policy development (e.g. evaluation of effectiveness of an authority in closing the attainment gap)

The introduction and development of Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs) has led to even more direct engagement of staff in a wide range of ways.

3.7 Key Stakeholders Involved In Supporting And Monitoring Curriculum Policy 

The Scottish Government develops national policy and sets the overall direction of education policy.

The main bodies directly responsible for supporting and monitoring the implementation of the curriculum are:

  • Local authorities
  • Education Scotland 

In order to avoid duplication, the detail on their roles has been set out in section 2.2, alongside those of other key national and local bodies. 

3.8 Financial Resources For Curriculum Implementation 

Description of how education is funded in Scotland 

Unlike other parts of the United Kingdom, schools are not financed separately but receive their funding from their Local Authority. An exception to this is Pupil Equity Funding, which is additional funding of over £120million per year, as part of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, which goes direct to Headteachers for them to invest to help close the poverty related attainment gap. This means that there is scope for local flexibility and determination of priorities, other than where national staffing conditions of service or national agreements pertain. 

The funding climate remains challenging, even more so in the wake of COVID19. The Scottish Government has provided a degree of protection for local government, due to the vital services they provide, including real terms revenue increases which included additional funding for new responsibilities, meaning that the percentage of revenue that Local Authorities spend on education has been increasing in the last few years. 

The Scottish Government has also provided direct funding to ensure the support and development of CfE This funding is targeted to support a range of outcomes across curriculum design and development, specific curriculum areas and pupil and parental participation. Levels of funding vary year on year. However in 2019/20 approximately £12.3 million was allocated to curriculum related spending. Education Scotland also provides support for learning and teaching in schools in Scotland and the development of CfE.

Local Authorities make decisions on the allocation of resources for education and schools in their area. Funding is derived from the Scottish Government as part of the local government settlement.  In addition to this, as closing the poverty-related attainment gap is the defining mission of this Government, over this Parliamentary term an additional £750 million Attainment Scotland Funding is being provided to Local Authorities, schools and national programmes, for them to help raise the attainment levels of our most disadvantaged children.  This includes Pupil Equity Funding, with over 97% of schools in every Local Authority in Scotland, receiving funding totalling over £250 million over the next two years. The vast majority of the funding for education is not ring-fenced. Local Authorities in turn devolve at least 80 per cent of school-based funding to head teachers (normally this percentage is greater). There are differing approaches to the financing of school buildings, but generally the Local Authority is responsible for large capital costs, and the head teachers' smaller revenue costs. 

The Scottish Government provides around 70 per cent of all local government revenue funding. The remainder comes from business rates and Council Tax levied on local residents.  Although local authorities collect the business rates in their own area, the Scottish Government guarantees the combined total of the revenue grants plus the business rates.  This guarantees funding for around 77 per cent of local government net revenue expenditure, including education.  It is for Local Authorities to prioritise funding to meet local needs and allocate budgets accordingly, including to schools. However, some additional targeted funding is provided by the Scottish Government for specific purposes, such as the implementation CfE, or more recently, for raising attainment. The total gross expenditure on education by the 32 Local Authorities in 2013-14 was £4.8 billion. As a share of total Local Authority expenditure, education has been broadly stable (just under 44 per cent of net revenue expenditure in 2013-14). 

Local Authorities devolve the management of certain elements of the expenditure on education down to school level. Devolved School Management (DSM) was introduced in 1993 with the twin aims of improving local decision making and providing more flexibility to head teachers in responding to the needs of individual schools. The revised DSM guidelines 2012 empower head teachers to meet local needs and deliver the best possible outcomes for young learners, in line with the objectives of Curriculum for Excellence, GIRFEC and the Early Years Framework. A theme running across the guidance is that head teachers should have decision-making power around budgets that allow decisions to be made for the benefit of schools and learners, and does not overburden them with bureaucracy. There will be constraints on head teachers (for example salary costs and scales) which limit some of their flexibility. 

The Scottish Government publishes Scottish Local Government Financial Statistics in February each year which provides detail on the amount Local Authorities have spent on education in the previous financial year. 

School Education 

The table below shows six years of data on gross revenue expenditure by school sector (in cash terms). Expenditure in 2018-19 for primary, secondary and special school education totalled £4.9 billion, which is an increase of 4.9 per cent (real terms) from 2013-14, and 3.5% over 2017-18.

 (in £ thousands) Pre-Primary Primary Secondary Special Non-School Funding' Total education 
2013-14* £319,148 £1,839,320 £1,937,479 £521,466 £165,863 £4,783,276
2014-15* £346,086 £1,854,188 £1,930,960 £533,053 £156,401 £4,820,688
2015-16* £384,833 £1,905,471 £1,946,888 £549,727 £158,725 £4,945,644
2016-17 £421,238 £1,973,068 £1,975,665 £551,770 £148,382 £5,070,123
2017-18* £440,342 £2,066,848 £2,005,589 £565,215 £146,176 £5,224,170
2018-19 £501,072 £2,179,277 £2,125,759 £596,061 £148,677 £5,550,846
1 year % change 13.8% 5.4% 6.0% 5.5% 1.7% 6.3%
% change since 2013-14 57.0% 18.5% 9.7% 14.3% -10.4% 16.0%
    Real terms changes
1 year % change 11.5% 3.3% 3.8% 3.3% -0.3% 4.1%
% change since 2013-14 44.4% 9.0% 0.9% 5.2% -17.5% 6.8%

*Figures have been recently revised so may differ to those of previous years.



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