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.

Annex E: Examples of practice at a local authority level

1. Aberdeenshire

This paper was written by the local authority as part of an Education Scotland-led review of how ready the system was for 'empowerment'.

Aberdeenshire Council, National thematic inspection: readiness for empowerment, Extracts from their self-evaluation form November 2018 

1. Improvement : How well do local authorities empower headteachers and schools to lead improvement in order to close the poverty related attainment gap through school improvement planning in collaboration with their school community? 

Relevant QIs: QI 1.3 Leadership of change Theme 2 - Strategic Planning for continuous improvement;  QI 1.1 Self-evaluation for self-improvement Theme 1 Collaborative approaches to self-evaluation. Driving excellence and equity: Advice on School Improvement Planning 2018/19 will also be relevant.

Prompts: headteachers and schools empowerment in relation to : improvement planning; collaboration; using evidence to inform priorities; balancing local and NIF priorities, involvement in Children's Services planning, allowed to take responsibility for school priorities, manageability of processes, qualitative and quantitative measures of success, evidence of impact on reducing inequalities and closing attainment gap

Context: Towards a Self-Improving School System in Aberdeenshire

Aberdeenshire Council, within the context of the empowering schools agenda, is on a journey in promoting the development of a sustainable and self-improving Aberdeenshire school system at 3 'local' levels of collaborative: within schools (establishment level); between schools (cluster level); and across schools (area level: north; central; and south). 

Working towards a self-improving school system is focused on the following: 

  • Raising attainment and achievement and improve outcomes for all children and young people.
  • Building skills in self-evaluation for self-improvement.
  • Encouraging collaborative working within, between and across establishments
  • Building leadership capacity and provide opportunities for system leadership.
  • Developing a shared moral purpose and collective responsibility for all children and young people in all our communities across Aberdeenshire.

Within schools

Aberdeenshire Council are developing and delivering a universal offer to all head teachers and schools to empower them in raising attainment and closing the poverty gap across 3 key areas: 

  • Data analysis for self-evaluation and self-improvement 
  • Evolving career-long professional development (CLPL) offer to promote empowerment and ownership of professional learning at the school level 
  • School leadership development framework for within schools 

Between schools

The authority has been developing approaches to build on an existing foundation of cluster collaboration. The challenges and opportunities of the Scottish Government governance review and empowering schools agenda are recognised and ECS have identified a transition phase of intensive support to schools and clusters to strengthen their capacity to lead their own improvement through collaborative professionalism and collective responsibility for improving outcomes at a local level. 

The cluster capacity building programme is promoting collaboration to strengthen the capacity and confidence of all school leaders to engage in collaborative professionalism and empower them within a school-led system going forward.

The planned outcomes of the cluster capacity building programme include:

  • Shared understanding of standards and expectations for robust professional dialogue, reliable and consistent data and intelligence
  • Support and challenge for improved outcomes at school and cluster level
  • Collective responsibility for each other's improvement and results 

The capacity building programme focuses on 4 areas of activity:

1. Facilitation of cluster level reflective activity on level and nature of cluster collaboration 

2. Facilitation of cluster level BGE attainment reviews: review of professional judgment data (ACL); review of standardised assessment information; alignment and triangulation of data; and identification of strengths and areas of improvement

3. Facilitation of cluster-level unpacking of core QIs and national priorities: sharing of QI expectations around core QIs; localisation of national key priority messages and alignment to SQUIP; and peer support for self-evaluation processes

4. Facilitation of cluster reviews of Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) funded interventions: clarification of expectations of accountability; review of outcomes and impact at school and cluster level; identification of priorities going forward at school and cluster level

Area level (across schools)

The system strengthening activity at establishment and cluster levels need to be consolidated through the development of a mediating layer in the Aberdeenshire school system. Activity at the area level will extend and enhance the establishment and cluster levels of collaborative working to include a specific focus on self-evaluation for self-improvement. 

The area-level structure and process of the self-improving school system is being developed through the establishment of School Improvement Partnerships within each or across areas (North, Central and South). These trios of schools within the primary and secondary sectors will work collaboratively to drive forward improvement in their schools and establishments through a cycle of self-evaluation for self- improvement activity, moving towards a 3 year cycle of VSE with a linked authority offer of CLPL. The school improvement partnerships provide opportunities to:

  • Develop leadership skills and provide opportunities for CLPL 
  • Provide peer to peer support and challenge for head teachers
  • Improve self-evaluation processes by providing head teachers opportunities for moderation of judgements against QIs
  • Re-focus attention onto the core business of schools
  • Encourage collaboration and collegiate working
  • Build a sense of collective responsibility for improvement
  • Enable a self-improving system
  • Provide means for officers to identify how schools are performing
  • Provide identified buddies or mentors especially for newly appointed head teachers

The SIPs will facilitate a planned move from authority-led and owned Quality Improvement Visits (QIVs) which will be unsustainable over the medium-to-long term to a Validated Self-Evaluation model which promotes wider ownership & participation of head teachers and school-based teams. Officer participation in the VSE model and activity will provide overall local authority moderation of process and information on school provision, and ongoing quality assurance processes at the authority using the newly developed schools/BGE dashboard will allow for identification and targeting of schools requiring an intensive authority offer of support.

Through a process of co-production, an induction year has been developed for school session 2018/19. Key activity over the induction phase will involve facilitation of a regular forum for professional dialogue between school leaders within the SIP, with a view to establishing relationships and communication, develop familiarisation of context and capacity building around self-evaluation for self-improvement. 

1.1 How well are you able to take account of both local and the NIF priorities through improvement planning that works for your children and young people? How well is this allowing headteachers to take responsibility for deciding on their school's improvement priorities?

Head teachers have full autonomy in determining their improvement priorities within the context of the NIF national and local priorities. All head teachers have an authority offer of support in this from their cluster lead QIO.

The Aberdeenshire NIF plan draws together national priorities and local priorities. Driver diagrams were issued to all schools to support self-evaluation and identification of potential interventions in the areas of: social and emotional wellbeing; raising attainment in literacy and numeracy; high quality learning and teaching; and employability and skills development. A Delivering Excellence and Equity website provides an overview of the NIF and the relevant national and local plans and support for improvement planning:

The Aberdeenshire SQUIP is structured to ensure that all improvement priorities are linked to the NIF national and local priorities and drivers.

Through the cluster capacity building programme, the facilitation of cluster-level unpacking of core QIs and national priorities is promoted: sharing of QI expectations around core QIs; localisation of national key priority messages and alignment to SQUIP; and peer support for self-evaluation processes. This put the focus on self-evaluation and supported dialogue between schools, sharing of practice and a shared and improved understanding of standards within the selected QIs – 1.3, 2.3, 3.1 and 3.2. 

Discussion focused on individual school priorities as identified from self-evaluation, whether there were cluster themes and how these sat within the priorities of the National Improvement Framework. Officers maintained the focus on Excellence and Equity and the importance of identifying individual school 'gaps'. Feedback was positive, with HTs reporting increased confidence and understanding. 

The authority will continue to work with clusters around identified themes and how these support raising attainment and ensuring equity, including development of a programme for cluster HT engagement around key themes eg Curriculum (QI2.2), Partnerships (QI2.7) and Creativity and Employability (QI3.3), and cluster level PEF reviews.

1.2 How well is an evidence-based approach used to determine key priorities for improvement that meet the needs of learners and focus on reducing inequalities of outcome? 

The authority is working to strengthen evidence-based planning for improvement, both through an authority offer and the facilitation of collaborative activity at different levels of the system.

The cluster capacity building programme involves biannual facilitation of cluster level attainment reviews.

The authority provides head teachers and schools with guidance on the Pupil Equity Fund and planning for improvement to support the development of evidence-based interventions and the use of qualitative and quantitative measures of improvement. Further, head teachers were provided with the PEF reflective decision-making tool. This tool is intended as a framework to support reflective, evidence-informed decision-making in regard to Pupil Equity Fund expenditure.  

The authority has developed a schools BGE dashboard drawing together SIMD data, QI gradings, BGE ACL data, SNSA data, pupil information (attendance, exclusions, part-time timetables, and flexible learning pathways) and Early Years information. Cluster QIOs will use this tool to support and challenge schools at both individual and cluster levels and to develop head teacher capacity and confidence to use the data as an evidence base to inform priorities at both individual school and cluster levels. 

The Educational Psychology Service (EPS) offers a Practitioner Enquiry Approach to school leaders as a framework for improvement.  The approach aims to:

  • Encourage reflection on aspects of learning and teaching practice in their own context, 
  • Implement practices which have an established evidence-base in relation to raising attainment and / or closing the poverty related attainment gap (e.g. Hattie's Visible Learning research (2008; 2011; 2015; 2018); Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2014)), 
  • Use qualitative and quantitative data to evaluate the impact on their learners and to inform next steps for their school.  

1.3 How well and in what ways do you collaborate across members of the school community to plan for continuous improvement? 

[Collaboration within and across schools, local community including learners, parents, services and partners across public services and third sector]

Regional level

The Northern Alliance is a well established Regional Improvement Collaborative comprising of eight local authority areas. Aberdeenshire has played a significant role in the Collaborative and colleagues from across the local authority have been involved in various work streams.

Aberdeenshire level

The authority has established and strengthened mechanisms to promote pupil and parental participation in collaborative improvement planning and activity, for example through 

  • The Aberdeenshire Youth forum participation in the Aberdeenshire GIRFEC Children and Young People's Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy
  • The Parental Engagement Support Hub Aberdeenshire (PESHA) is a small team of three officers consisting of a Service Manager, Quality Improvement Officer and an Education Support Officer within Education and Children's Services whose role and remit focuses on four key areas: policy and guidance; engagement; capacity building; and family learning

Bennachie Campus is an authority mechanism for supporting classroom practitioners, school leadership teams, school communities and clusters in their school improvement journey and aims to play an important role in creating the conditions for school empowerment with the core principles of collaboration, an empowered culture and a focus on improvement.

Area-level collaboration 

The school improvement partnerships pilot project has delivered key outputs and outcomes over the development phase (2017/18) and induction phase (2018/19 ongoing) which promote collaboration in self-evaluation for self-improvement across schools;

Development phase (March-June 2018)

  • General awareness across wider Aberdeenshire Head Teacher cohort of the rationale for change and the opportunities and challenges around collaborative self-evaluation for self-improvement
  • Specific knowledge and understanding of other models of collaborative self-evaluation for self-improvement for participant, including the school improvement partnership and VSE model
  • Co-identification of opportunities and challenges in developing an Aberdeenshire model for school improvement partnerships and VSE
  • Co-production of solutions for addressing challenges and maximising opportunities in an Aberdeenshire model for school improvement partnerships and VSE
  • Co-production of a school improvement partnerships (pilot) project rationale and (pilot) project charter
  • Co-production of proposed structure for an induction year before formal school improvement partnership and VSE 3 year cycle of activity
  • Establishment of 18 school improvement partnerships involving 58 schools / Head Teachers
  • Scheduling of school improvement partnership meetings for Terms 2 and 3 in school session 2018/19
  • Provision of proformas to support school-based school improvement partnership activity
  • Development of communication approaches including quarterly newsletter

Induction phase: authority "offer" (August – October 2018)

Strengthened professional knowledge, understanding and skills around self-evaluation for self-improvement, including:

  • Increased knowledge and understanding of effective self-evaluation using HGIOS?4 and QI 1.1 Self-evaluation for self-improvement.
  • Professional reflection on using the quality indicators to evaluate work and improve outcomes for learners.
  • Promoting on-going professional dialogue and the journey towards a self-improving school system.
  • Increased knowledge and understanding of How Good is OUR school or "wee HGIOS" and the importance of pupil participation in self-evaluation
  • Strengthened skills for self-evaluation across 3 key areas: using data in self-evaluation; evaluative writing; interventions and impact

Cluster collaboration

Through the cluster capacity building programme, the authority has facilitated cluster level reflective activity on the level and nature of cluster collaboration through the mechanism of the authority led area days. All Head Teachers had the opportunity to contribute to a review of existing cluster collaboration practice and consider potential ways of collaborating beyond individual clusters as part of the Towards a Self-Improving Schools System school improvement partnerships. 

The cluster capacity building programme (including unpacking HGIOS4 and cluster attainment reviews) provides opportunities for cluster improvement planning across schools based on shared priorities.

Community level

Locality GIRFEC partnership arrangements progress collaborative improvement activity between head teachers and partner agencies across services in line with the Children's Services Plan and the GIRFEC thematic group priorities and local priorities.

1.4 How manageable is the improvement planning process? How do approaches reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and take account of working time agreements?

The authority has provided a template, exemplars and guidance notes for the Aberdeenshire Standards and Quality Report and Improvement Plan (SQUIP) for use across all establishments as a 'live' document with a cycle of continuous improvement.

The cluster-level capacity building programme and school improvement partnerships (SIP) pilot project supports peer review and moderation of SQUIP through the 'unpacking' of core QIs and models a streamlined process for self-evaluation and school improvement planning. 

The area-level school improvement partnerships will provide opportunities for head teachers and schools to meaningfully review and revise SQUIPs as 'live' documents within a cycle of continuous improvement.

The EPS has streamlined its CLPL offer to schools with more explicit links to local and national priorities.  The service has used feedback from Head Teachers to begin to align its CLPL offers more closely with the School Improvement Planning cycle to allow more effective longer-term planning

The authority provides support to head teachers to monitor working time agreements and try to ensure that unnecessary bureaucracy is reduced.

1.5 How well does improvement planning build in qualitative and quantitative measures of success to support monitoring and evaluation and ensure a focus on gathering evidence of impact?

The Aberdeenshire Council SQUIP template emphasises the use of qualitative and quantitative measures to evidence impact of improvement priority and PEF actions through ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

To empower head teachers and schools in data gathering and analysis for self-evaluation and self-improvement for the purposes of raising attainment and closing the poverty gap, an authority offer is provided, including: 

  • Senior Phase (school-level) attainment reviews
  • BGE (cluster-level) attainment reviews
  • Quality Assurance and Moderation Support Officer (QAMSO) – What is Moderation? & Good Quality Holistic Assessment – delivered by QAMSOs and 2 officers with the strategic lead to all head teachers through cluster meetings. 
  • Session delivered to all head teachers at an event on 'Using and analysing data to improve outcomes for all pupils and take forward school improvement.' 
  • Training offered at authority level on SNSA – 'champions' identified per cluster to support roll out. Area level training for school senior leadership teams on analysis of data provided by Scholar and followed up by Authority Assessment Coordinator.
  • Local Moderation Hub, linking to the National Moderation Hub
  • Training delivered on data - tracking and monitoring in the BGE, interrogation and triangulation to support improvement. 
  • Individual and targeted support offered as required in terms of data analysis, tracking and monitoring, assessment and moderation.
  • BGE Toolkit –training at Area Level and Cluster Level provided to school senior leadership teams to support dialogue about improvement. 

2. Curriculum : How well do local authorities empower headteachers and schools to design their local curriculum in line with CfE and in collaboration with their school community?

Relevant QIs: QI 2.2 Curriculum

Prompts: enabled to structure and deliver local curriculum, local and national needs, stakeholder involvement in development and evaluation of curriculum, curriculum design to provide flexible learning pathways, to meet learners needs, to raise attainment

2.1 How effectively do policies and practice promote empowerment of schools and local communities to design their curriculum in line with Curriculum for Excellence?

1. A range of policies, frameworks and support materials have, for many years, encouraged schools to engage with their school community to design a curriculum that meets the needs of their learners in a local context. The following timeline provides an overview of relevant guidance and support materials: 

  • A Curriculum Framework 3-18 for Aberdeenshire (2008). This is used by many schools as the foundation for their curriculum design. Appendix 2.1.1 
  • 3-18 Curriculum Policy (2015) A revision of the above framework to take account of raised expectations. Appendix 2.1.2
  • Aberdeenshire Curriculum Progression Frameworks
  • Curriculum Rationale Guidance and workshops for HTs (2015-16). Non-prescriptive – advice and exemplification of good practice i.e. involvement of staff, learners, parents and local community. Appendix 2.1.3 
  • Stepping Up Your Curriculum Rationale and Design (2015/16.)  A self-evaluation toolkit and workshop. Subsequently updated to reflect increased expectations. Appendix 2.1.4
  • DYW suite of policy and guidance materials, support sessions and CLPL programme (2016 onwards). See case studies below and Appendix 2.1.B
  • Curriculum Rationale workshop for new Head Teachers as part of the Head Teacher Induction Programme. Appendix 2.1.6
  • Aberdeenshire Curriculum Progression Framework Review (2018/19) Collaborative approach with CTs, HTs and secondary subject specialists (and Northern Alliance colleagues for Numeracy and Literacy progressions).
  • Head Teachers and staff in Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) have access to a range of guidance documentation. A revised ELC Handbook will be launched in November 18.
  • A revised induction scheme for ELC staff has been created and provides in depth support in relation to ELC curriculum and learning play based approaches.  

Curriculum collaboratives have been established to facilitate curriculum development at a local, mainly cluster-based, level. This model is based on evidence of effective CLPL approaches and a desire to encourage sustainability of training and support that encourages the development of leadership of learning. Refer to Case Study 2.1 A, below.

Case Study 2.1 A - Curriculum Collaboratives 

Strategy and working groups that include school-based practitioners who are using experiences and evidence-based practice to inform and develop support materials and projects for colleagues. This includes the use of a Train the Trainer model for the delivery of CLPL at a department, school, cluster or area level and the establishment of professional learning communities. 

Examples include:  

  • Science Mentor Programme. Seven existing SSERC trained mentors training 20+ colleagues to become Science Mentors. 
  • Numeracy Steering Group. Approximately 10 class teachers working with Bennachie Campus, the Numeracy Hub Champion and NA Numeracy Project Lead Officer to support over 40 Numeracy Ambassadors (school-based colleagues) and organise the Teaching for Mastery in Maths Project. 
  • Teaching for Mastery in Maths Programme. Approximately 12 Numeracy Ambassadors creating programme content and facilitating professional learning communities in 9 locations across Aberdeenshire. Building capacity for this to be further expanded at a local level through the Numeracy Ambassador programme. 
  • Restorative Approaches Training  
  • Literacy Action Group. School-based colleagues, librarians and speech and language therapist collaborative to plan and develop support materials, including CLPL activities. Literacy Lead practitioners are part of the Northern Alliance's emerging literacy project and are being trained by the project's lead officer in order to develop a more sustainable training model.

Case Study 2.1 B – Empowering Schools through support for DYW 

  • A revised structure of an Aberdeenshire Council DYW Project Board and Project Group was introduced in August 2016 to provide strategic vision and operational leadership to deliver DYW outcomes. 
  • Strategic lead given. Strategic Plan, Operation Plan and Communication Strategy in place.  
  • PT DYW, or equivalent, allocated to each secondary school to facilitate development of DYW.  
  • DYW support and Guidance materials have been produced to support school empowerment, DYW Careers Education toolkits and DYW baseline audit, Pupil Career education Survey and calendars, etc.  
  • DYW template for DYW school improvement plan supplied.  
  • Staff CLPL opportunities – PTs DYW, DHTs and HTs (primary and secondary), cluster days and sector led days. All very well received 
  • Partnership development to support school curriculum offer - Enhanced strategic partnership planning and delivery through the North East Regional Collaborative Group. (DYW North East, Nescol, SDS, RGU, Aberdeen Uni) 
  • Revised strategy for primary school DYW delivery in partnership with curriculum team.  
  • Primary DYW bids for funding to help support primary DYW delivery. 
  • DYW and Early Years strategic and operational planning to help deliver better and more sustainable workforce development EY outcomes 
  • Use of labour market information to design the curriculum.  
  • Capacity building for example DYW in the Inverurie cluster - they have put together a working group, created a plan, CLPL, resources, etc. 

Evidence of positive feedback and curriculum progress eg

2.2 How well do schools engage with their local communities to design and evaluate their curriculum? 

[Staff, parents, pupils, wider partners, local authority]

1. A range of policies, frameworks and support materials encourage schools to engage with the school community, and wider partners, to design a curriculum that meets the needs of their learners in a local context. (Refer to section 2.1) 

2. Along with appropriate analyse of data and the local context all schools consult with their stakeholders to establish how best to provide the relevant support within PEF guidelines.

3. The processes undertaken by an establishment to design and evaluate their curriculum is a focus for discussion as part of QIVs.  Attainment reviews in secondary schools include a focus on reviewing the broad general education and transitions.

4. The Parental Engagement Support Hub in Aberdeenshire (PESHA) provides a positive partnership approach to delivering the best possible learning outcomes for children and young people. PESHA has drawn together previous parental engagement work and is supporting the development of initiatives to strengthen and grow positive and productive relationships between schools and parents in Aberdeenshire.  4 elements for the work of PESHA: Policy & 

Guidance; Capacity Building; Engagement; Family Learning 

5. Next steps include a planned project, led by Bennachie Campus, to engage with schools to revisit curriculum rationale and design. The curriculum map project aims to explore in detail the process of designing a curriculum map that meets the needs of learners at a local level. It has two main strands:  

1) Establishing case studies where schools have redesigned their curriculum map by involving staff, learners, parents, businesses and the local community.                                

2)  Working in collaboration with colleagues from all sectors to explore the process in their own setting, in particular by considering the use of the Sustainable Development Goals and our local economies, historical, cultural, and natural environments as contexts to embed Learning for Sustainability, DYW, Skills for learning, life and work and IDL approaches.  

6.  ELC partnerships with Early Years Scotland focus on working with local communities to support and widen community participation in ELC

Case Study 2.2 A – PEF Project 

National operational guidance makes clear that Pupil Equity Funding must enable schools to deliver new or enhanced activities, interventions or resources which are in addition to core service delivery. 

In order to assist Head Teachers preparing PEF Plans, Aberdeenshire has produced Guidance (which complements National Guidance).

Key Features of Aberdeenshire Guidance include:

  • It is recommended that schools work in partnership with other schools in their cluster to share good practice and build capacity.  Other partnerships should also be considered, such as with local third sector partners to support family learning or health and well-being.  Some examples were also provided.
  • The template provided should be used to set out details of the proposed plan using, where appropriate, the Interventions for Equity Framework published by Scottish Government.
  • Targeted outcomes should be specified, for example attainment levels, attendance, exclusions, positive destinations.
  • The plans will be collated and reviewed across the service.
  • Schools must have plans in place at the outset to evaluate the impact of the funding.  If the plans are not achieving the results intended these plans should be amended.
  • It is also expected that a summary report will be submitted to the QIO at the end of each academic year evaluating progress towards targeted outcomes.  This could be part of the annual up-date in the School Improvement Plan (SIP) and would also be included in the annual Standards and Quality Report for parents.

Case Study 2.2 B – Peterdeen 

PeterDeen is an innovative and aspirational education programme being delivered to S3 pupils in Peterhead Academy. 

 It is a unique and bespoke partnership, between Peterhead Academy, the Community Learning & Development Service, Aberdeen Football Club through its Community Trust, Peterhead Football Club and sponsorship from Score International Limited, a local employer.

 Participants were identified as being expected to benefit from an alternative curriculum to ensure they develop the skills for learning, life and work which they might not otherwise have achieved.

 Priorities include:

  • Improving attainment at significant stages of the curriculum 
  • Delivering motivating, innovative, inspirational learning experiences
  • Enabling professional and wider stakeholders to work together effectively

Case Study 2.2 C – Learning for Sustainability Calendar (Fishermoss Primary School) 

The school has worked with the school community to establish a Learning for Sustainability Calendar; developing children's skills with awareness of their use in the world of work/staff referencing the relevance of the children's learning in the world of work

2.3 In what ways is the local curriculum designed to provide flexible learning pathways which support different needs of learners and lead to raising attainment?

Head Teachers are encouraged, where a clear curriculum rationale is identified, to explore and provide flexible learning pathways. 

Examples of this flexibility include the number of National 5 subjects undertaken in S4, creative approaches to increasing qualifications attained by pupils (Case Study 2.3 A), work-related learning (Case Study 2.3 B) and opportunities for collaborative curriculum delivery working across establishments (Case Study 2.3 C). 

Flexibility enables clusters to develop transition models to meet local circumstances (Case Study 2.3 C).

Case Study 2.3 A – SQA Citizenship Qualification (Mearns Academy) 

Pupils in S3 RMPS at Mearns Academy undertake activities, including planning and delivering an equalities fair for pupils, staff, parents and the local community and are awarded an SQA Citizenship qualification in S4.

Case Study 2.3 B – Work-related Learning Programme (Ellon Academy) 

Ellon Academy has developed its curriculum offer to meet the challenge of preparing pupils for the world of work. The school has set up and organised its own work related learning programme. There have been clear benefits to pupils, parents and businesses. The aim of Work Related Learning is to enhance and support future career choices for our young people, whether it be employment or Further/Higher Education. This is the rationale behind the inclusive nature of the course. 

What is the 'Work Related Learning' Offer 

Leaners are given the opportunity to participate in internship-style work placements one day a week from August to Easter and are able to select from a wide range of sectors including journalism, education, hospitality, performing arts, event management child care. Supplementary lessons in school allowed participants to reflect on their learning experience, enhance newly developed skills and at the same time gain a National Progression Award in Enterprise and Employability at level 4 or 5.  

Benefits to the young people

  • Provides experience of recruitment and selection procedures 
  • Provides a valuable insight into work practices and cultures with a view to supporting future career choices 
  • Experience - not just of their chosen career area but everything else that goes along with a working life – travel, deadlines, working as a team, the impact of having a day off etc 
  • Opportunity to develop key knowledge, skills and behaviours required in learning, life and work 
  • Increased awareness about the variety of professions that exist across the organisation. 
  • NPA Level 4/5 in 'Enterprise and Employability' 
  • Preparing young people for transition into successful employment 
  • Young people get their face/name 'known'. 

The majority of the pupils have completed approximately twenty two weeks of their internship and the feedback from the employers, the pupils and parents has been extremely positive. The pupils have been given a real insight into the world of work. They are participating in meaningful projects and are being given responsibility to complete tasks and meet deadlines. The extended placement approach has allowed relationships to form and the pupils to feel valued and see themselves as part of a team. Businesses have also welcomed the input from the 'younger generation' and have found the pupils to be useful resources especially in terms of how to approach and stay up to date with areas such as social media and to gain access to fresh ideas/perspectives through the thinking of young people.

Case Study 2.3 C – Kincardine and Mearns Curriculum Collaboration (Portlethen, Mackie and Mearns Academies)  

DYW Moving Forward Programme 

This involves 4 x S3 pupils each from Mackie, Mearns and Portlethen Academies.  They have been identified as having challenges/barriers to learning/vulnerabilities and working regularly with ASL staff.   

The programme is delivered through a morning session each Friday.  These run termly at one of the three academies.  

Aug-Nov they are at Mearns working on horticulture/agriculture skills;  

Nov-Jan at Portlethen working on Health & Well-being, fitness and resilience 

Jan-Mar at Mackie doing lifeskills/HE (cooking crops planted at Mearns).   

All projects to be certified as part of Achieve Programme levels 2-4.  

The Moving Forward Programme also involves visits to workplaces relevant to each of the sectors they are exploring.  This is set up by Aberdeenshire Council's Work Placement Unit.  

Joint Senior Phase Curriculum Project 

Mackie, Mearns and Portlethen Academies have developed their curriculum offer for identified pupils to enhance their skills development and employability skills. 8 pupils selected from each school.  The selection criteria involved the pupils being at risk of missing a positive destination.  The Joint-Programme involves 6 sector visits to employers and input from CLD.  First sector was rural skills.  CLD delivering PX2 programme which builds positive thinking and resilience skills.

Case Study 2.3 D – Transition Projects (Alford Academy and Banff Academy) 

Transition programmes - pupils transfer to secondary school full-time 2, or 3, weeks prior to the summer holidays

Update on the Development of Foundation Apprenticeships in Aberdeenshire Schools

Peterdeen National Awards Press Release 23 May 2019 

Peterdeen National Awards Press Release

Peterdeen National Awards Press Release 3 July 2019

2. Dumfries & Galloway

This paper is an example of how a local authority has developed a clear vision and strategy for its Senior Phase curriculum offer. 

Dumfries and Galloway: Curriculum for Excellence: Senior Phase Vision and Strategy             

Our vision is for a Senior Phase which enables all young people across Dumfries and Galloway to progress in learning and equip them with the skills, knowledge and positive attitudes they need to participate and progress to their next stage of learning whether that be further or higher education or to training and employment. 

In this way, we look to improve the life chances of all of our young people, including our most vulnerable, through the provision of learning and training opportunities and the personal support they need to help them achieve and progress.

Dumfries and Galloway has a population of just under 150,000 and is the third largest council area by land mass in Scotland.  The area is largely rural with Dumfries, Stranraer and Annan being the only big towns. The rest of the region is characterised by small settlements of 4,000 people or less which are spread across a large area.  There are 16 secondary schools in Dumfries and Galloway with school rolls ranging in size from 41 to 955.  All schools are committed to ensuring positive destinations for our young people despite the challenges of ensuring equity in a large rural area.   

Our challenges 

  • Rurality / depopulation
  • Size of school / class size viability
  • Transport links
  • Digital skills and infrastructure

Low wage economy A Dumfries and Galloway Council priority is to "Provide the best start in life for all our children" with a commitment to secure "improvement in employability skills and sustained positive destinations for all our young people".    

This commitment aligns entirely with our aspiration to deliver 'excellence and equity for all' as determined in a variety of reports and succinctly summarised in the 15-24 Learner Journey Review, published May 2018, "The Scottish Government's ambition is for a world class education and skills system. A system that delivers the best value to the learner, wider society and the economy where all learners are on the right route to the right job, through the right course via the right information." 

The Senior Phase

The Senior Phase, which takes place from S4 to S6 in schools and includes ages 16 -18, is the phase which builds on the learning and experiences of the Broad General Education when the young person will build up a portfolio of qualifications, skills and work-based learning experiences and inspirations.  All young people in Scotland have an entitlement to a Senior Phase of education which: 

  • provides specialisation, depth and rigour; 
  • prepares them well for achieving qualifications to the highest level of which they are capable;
  • continues to develop skills for learning, skills for life, and skills for work; 
  • continues to provide a range of activities which develop the four capacities; and 
  • supports them to achieve a sustained, positive destination.

The vision for the Senior Phase across Dumfries and Galloway is therefore framed around the key documentation which drives and influences developments at this stage and complements the ongoing implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC), and Developing the Young Workforce (DYW), which are the three supporting pillars of the Scottish education system. 

The need for a partnership approach…

The Learner Journey Review clearly emphasises the need for Education Services to work closely with partners to make sure that all our young people get as much as possible from our education and skills system. Importantly, as well as education partners, this also means continued, active involvement from employers, who have a key role to play in developing our workforce for the future and ensuring that our education system develops in tandem with our economy. It is therefore important that across all schools the Senior Phase curriculum provides a balance of work-based learning and academic skills informed by employer engagement; and is driven by a focus on the destinations of young people and the needs of the Scottish economy.Our key partners …

  • All schools in Dumfries and Galloway
  • Dumfries and Galloway College
  • SRUC – Barony
  • HE institutions
  • Skills Development Scotland
  • DYW-DG Regional Team
  • Economic Development including SOSEP and Borderlands
  • Parent/Carer Council Forum 
  • Care Experienced Education Team 
  • Young people 
  • Community, Learning and Development
  • Lifelong Learning
  • South West Educational Improvement Collaborative

Education ScotlandWhat our stakeholders tell us

Our young people tell us they want "more flexible pathways, a greater range of options and opportunities to undertake relevant work experience to help prepare them for their next stage".

Parents want to see a Senior Phase that is "as flexible as possible to allow young people to follow a pathway that best suits them…" and "a wide variety of subjects that are relevant for the jobs and sectors they will be working in when they leave".

Our Business Partners and Local Employers tell us that "building bridges between employers and young people is vital for a skilled, sustainable workforce for the region." 

The Regional Skills Investment Plan (SOSEP) in June 2019 highlighted "The region needs to provide more opportunities for progression in to higher skilled roles, and to embed "cross cutting" skills across all jobs. There is a need to build on existing work to provide clear careers information to raise awareness of regional opportunities…"

These views echo the 15-24 Learner Journey Review - "Scotland cannot afford to be one dimensional in approach to education and we cannot afford to waste the talents of our young people. This is an issue which is central to our inclusive economic growth and social justice ambitions. … we have the opportunity to ensure that all of our young people can follow pathways that are tailored to their strengths and interests." 

Strategic Aim

Dumfries and Galloway Council Education and Learning Directorate along with key partners will work together to design, deliver and support an aspirational, innovative, broad and relevant Senior Phase curriculum that addresses our local challenges and ensures equity of provision and opportunity for all our young people. 

Together we will therefore: 

  • extend and enrich the curriculum offer across all our schools to reflect pupil aspiration and a range of career pathways taking account of labour market intelligence provided by the regional skills assessment 
  • ensure that all our young people have access to the right information, advice and support so they can realise their potential through making the best curricular choices to prepare them for career pathways;
  • develop leadership at all levels to build proactive and effective partnerships between agencies to realise our vision for all our young people;
  • devise bold, innovative and creative delivery approaches fit for the 21st century - both in terms of addressing geographic challenges and through the expansion of digital opportunities and open learning;
  • ensure that targeted support for particular groups or individual young people is coherent and effective and enables all our young people to benefit from the opportunities available to them. 

Intended Outcomes

  • Young people will be better informed about the range of opportunities on offer and will feel supported to make appropriate choices about their destinations and the various pathways to help them get there 
  • School staff, employers, partners and parents will be better informed about the range of opportunities and pathways on offer and will be equipped to support young people in planning their future and promote parity of esteem of different pathways
  • Raised levels of attainment and wider achievement will be secured through the provision of a comprehensive suite of appropriate qualifications and awards and a continuing focus on raising attainment through robust tracking and monitoring 
  • All young people will have equitable access to a wide range of opportunity regardless of their school, geographical location or ability level
  • Data relating to sustained positive destinations for all young people will be strong and systems to ensure rigorous interrogation of the data by all partners will ensure ongoing, robust evaluation of the success of the Senior Phase strategy
  • Outcomes and life chances for our most vulnerable young people will improve. 

Key Delivery Priorities

Priorities We will achieve this by …………
Curriculum  Offer
  • Promoting flexible pathways for all - based on pupil voice / labour market intelligence as defined within the Regional Skills Assessment
  • Providing a range of pathways which builds on learning and experiences through the Broad General Education 
  • Achieving SCQF Ambassador status for all secondary schools 
  • Increasing Apprenticeships – expanding the number of frameworks on offer (including Foundation / Modern / Graduate Apprenticeships) and increasing the number of young people successfully completing these courses
  • Ensuring equitable access to a wide range of subjects and levels including Advanced Highers
  • Increasing the opportunity for STEM related learning, engagement, study and training across our learning estate
  • Increasing vocational qualifications on offer e.g. National Progression Awards / Skills for Work courses / achievement awards/ employability awards in tandem with National Qualifications
  • Developing a relevant suite of College Academy courses to complement school offers       
  • Developing and supporting opportunities / systems to ensure appropriate work-based learning experiences and inspiration activities, supported by the DYW DG Regional Team
  • Embedding recommendations relating to the Career Education Standard and the development of Career Management Skills
  • Promoting the development of skills through embedding opportunities to undertake a range of wider achievement /awards 
Information, Advice and Support
  • Supporting schools to ensure all young people have access to an online account on My World of Work (My WOW) and are accessing and using it to assist in career planning and profiling
  • Ensuring all young people have access to an informed and joined up approach to careers information, guidance and support through planned activities, especially at key transition points
  • Working towards a one stop shop approach to support practitioners, parents, carers and young people to access information about learning choices available across Dumfries and Galloway.
  • Ensuring that the Skills Development Scotland CIAG (Careers Information, Advice and Guidance) service offer is fully utilised by young people, parents and partners
  • Ensuring targeted support is provided for those who need it, for example, care experienced young people
Leadership and Partnership Working
  • Building the capacity, knowledge and expertise of all staff and partners to ensure a relentless focus on improving the life chances of young people. 
  • Developing a robust performance framework to ensure effective evaluation of our progress and our partnership working
  • Developing stronger links with partners, in particular, Dumfries and Galloway College and SRUC through agreed delivery strategies for the future
  • Developing greater links with local employers through DYW DG Regional Team strategy
  • Developing links with our partners in the South West Educational Improvement Collaborative and the Scottish Borders (SOSEP/ Borderlands)
  • Developing with partners opportunities to ensure appropriate work-based learning for all
  • Promoting Widening Access programmes with universities / colleges
  • Ensuring relevant Skills Development Scotland engagement and support 
  • Improving liaison with young people and parent groups to involve them in key decisions regarding curriculum design and transformation
  • Creating service level agreements with partners to ensure clarity re contribution / impact
Delivery approaches for 21st Century
  • Developing and extending opportunities for open and distance learning opportunities across all schools 
  • Piloting and extending Digital Hub and Spoke models as a method of delivery (SOSEP)
  • Upskilling staff and young people with appropriate skills to deliver and receive learning digitally 
  • Creating, strengthening and supporting area consortia arrangements e.g. Dumfries Learning Town, Stewartry Link, Network East
  • Considering ways of aligning approaches to timetabling and structure of the school day / week to support the Senior Phase strategy and the expansion of digital learning
  • Agreeing timelines for completion of option choices to facilitate joint planning 
  • Developing opportunities to enhance Senior Phase experiences e.g. via The Bridge and other outreach facilities
  • Working with partners to support the national development around reducing the unnecessary duplication at SCQF level 7 to support the progression to Higher Education
Performance  and data
  • Ensuring greater alignment across educational and learning and our partners to help support effective transitions and ensure positive outcomes 
  • Building capacity of staff in our schools to make better use of data to support learners make the right choices for them
  • Developing a performance framework to drive improvement in this key area

Dumfries & Galloway, Education Services     August 2019

3. A Local Authority Wide Approach For The SCQF School Ambassador Programme

The SCQF Partnership (SCQFP) introduced its SCQF School Ambassador programme in 2016, with an initial six schools involved in the pilot. The programme has now been rolled out to around 78 schools across Scotland.

The newest SCQF School Ambassadors are all based in Dumfries and Galloway Council area and, in a departure from the usual training sessions which have been delivered to each school individually, all secondary schools teamed up to receive their Ambassador training at four different venues in Dumfries and Galloway over two days. A further day is planned for August 2019.

The schools involved have benefited by bringing together staff in similar roles across different schools to share good practice and discuss opportunities for joint projects. Lesley Watson, Education Officer with responsibility for the Senior Phase in Dumfries and Galloway said, "Our vision is for a Senior Phase which enables all young people across Dumfries and Galloway to progress in learning and equip them with the skills, knowledge and positive attitudes they need to participate and progress to their next stage of learning whether that be further or higher education or to training and employment. A sound understanding of the  SCQF and how it can help schools and partners offer a wide range of pathways is at the heart of our work to develop a dynamic offer for all our young people." 

Julie Cavanagh, Head of Partnerships and Communication at the SCQFP, said: "We were really pleased that Dumfries and Galloway Council were so keen to adopt an authority-wide approach to the School Ambassador programme. It shows how important the team see the SCQF as a tool for developing individual learning pathways for young people in Senior Phase and helping learners and parents understand the equality of different qualifications." 

The SCQF School Ambassador programme offers schools the opportunity to learn more about the benefits of the SCQF and the wider ways in which it supports learners such as recognising wider achievement, developing Senior Phase learning pathways in line with the Developing the Young Workforce strategy and giving equality between vocational and academic qualifications.

The SCQFP wants to support schools so that the Framework becomes second nature to learners and school staff and the benefits of using the SCQF are cascaded throughout the school and to parents and carers. Benefits include supporting flexible learning pathways for learners as they plan their learning journey and understanding the many different learning programmes that are on the Framework and how these can be compared against standard academic qualifications.

Due to the success of the School Ambassador programme, the SCQFP has recently launched a College Ambassador programme for colleges across Scotland. 

For more information on the School Ambassador programme, visit and for the College Ambassador programme see  

4.  North Ayrshire

This is an example of how local authorities are organising and delivering on professional learning/career long professional development.

Professional Learning Academy

As part of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, North Ayrshire has developed a Professional Learning Academy (PLA) to support staff in closing the poverty related attainment gap.  The prime purpose of the PLA is practitioner Career Long Professional Learning: supporting class teachers, early years practitioners and support staff to close the attainment gap by ensuring their practice is of the highest quality.

North Ayrshire Council's Professional Learning Academy(PLA):

  • is a centre of excellence in supporting all those who influence, support, educate, and care for children in North Ayrshire 
  • invests in our future by developing the skills and talents of our workforce ensuring a positive and sustainable future for children's services .
  • enhances pupil outcomes by promoting and leading professional learning to ensure a high performing workforce
  • provides effective, inspirational and responsive support for professional learning 
  • creates an environment where people are able to learn, develop, share, create, adapt and change
  • aims to ensure the legacy of the Scottish Attainment Challenge within North Ayrshire 
  • has a clear focus on researching high-impact approaches to pedagogy, and developing these into accessible and supportive training events for a broad range of staff
  • uses research and data to inform decision making at all stages of the selection, development & implementation of training packages

The above rationale is based on two components: 

1. Validation of our needs and a review of international evidence. 

2. High quality, sustainable, accessible and consistent training and support for all those working with young people.

The Professional Learning Academy was established in November 2016 and consisted of a team of 6 class teachers and 2 senior early years practitioners, all of whom were seconded from North Ayrshire establishments. The recruitment process included an observation of practice: this was seen as a crucial element as the team would be involved modelling classroom and playroom practice. Since then, the team has evolved and currently consists of 18 practitioners, a research assistant and an administrative support officer. Within their remit, individual team members are responsible for planning, delivering and evaluating whole school CLPL sessions, in-school interventions and opt-in CLPL sessions for practitioners across North Ayrshire. The team has a broad range of experience ranging from early years and primary through to secondary education, as well as speech and language therapy and educational psychology.

Since 2016 the team at the PLA has engaged with all North Ayrshire Primary Schools and since 2017 worked with nearly 4,000 staff and impacted the learning experiences of 6086 children and young people. The programme in place for the current academic session offers establishments a menu of 23 different targeted interventions covering literacy, numeracy and pedagogy, along with 25 different modular twilight courses. The PLA team work closely with head teachers and leadership teams to discuss the needs of establishments based on data gathered from a broad range of sources and, together, select the most appropriate interventions. 

Our Quality Assurance Strategy contains clear and straightforward guidance as to how we will ensure our programmes are high quality. We have continued to revise it throughout the years in response to self-evaluation and professional dialogue with colleagues. Every twilight course and intervention is reviewed by a multi-disciplinary quality assurance group who provide support and challenge to those presenting. Self-evaluation shows that practitioners gained confidence from presenting their work to a team of critical friends and were able to use the groups as a source of support and guidance. Those presenting are provided with written and verbal feedback focused on positive solutions to any concerns. Agreed formats ensure consistency across the team. Given the size of the PLA staff group, and the number of events which undergo this process, we are proud of our commitment in this area. All team members were also visited by the Operational Lead this session who observed their practice and spoke to practitioners and learners about their experiences with the PLA team. This provided a rich source of feedback about the service offered and was a positive indicator of the quality of team members working within the PLA

Building a culture of positive partnership, relationships and professional inquiry has been critical to the success of the PLA. The team has worked hard to consistently model best practice in quality assurance, self-evaluation and data literacy. The team also works in partnership with colleagues from other authorities on a range of initiatives including Reading Recovery and approaches to Primary 1 literacy pedagogy.

Demand for training now outweighs PLA capacity.

The interventions that have made the greatest impact on learners include our work on Strathclyde Higher Order Reading Skills (SHORS), Reading Recovery, Number Sense and the speech and language based approaches. 

The links between particular areas of work has also been powerful and the PLA team now ensures that these links are made clear to practitioners. This builds confidence in colleagues' confidence and motivation to embrace new approaches to learning and teaching. As a result of the investment in training a dedicated Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, the PLA has demonstrated a focus on ensuring sustainability beyond the life of the Attainment Challenge. Currently 15 schools have part-fund the training of a Reading Recovery teacher using school Pupil Equity Funding. 

As described above, each of the interventions and training opportunities is clearly focused on supporting practitioners to improve their pedagogical approaches in literacy, numeracy, mathematics and STEM. Feedback from Head Teachers demonstrates that training is being cascaded to the wider staff team. Of the 3,767 evaluations received for twilight training events, 93% - 100% stated that the courses were extremely professionally relevant and increased their subject knowledge of the pedagogical approaches demonstrated. The coaching and modelling approaches used by PLA practitioners has also been evaluated as being powerful and motivating for staff. 100% of the staff involved stated that this approach to their professional learning was beneficial and impactful.  

A testimonial from Education Scotland

A key plank of the authority approach to planning for further improvement and raising attainment has been the setting up of the Professional Learning Academy based at Auchenharvie Academy.  This has helped staff across the authority access a wide range of high-quality professional learning activities which are helping to raise attainment, particularly for those from the most deprived backgrounds.  The work of the PLA has reached staff in every school in North Ayrshire Council.  Staff are very positive about the training and its impact on the work of schools, improving both pedagogy and outcomes for children and young people.  Improving approaches to quality learning and teaching are at the core of this work.  Clear evidence exists of how the work of the PLA is supporting staff in taking forward meaningful interventions for teaching and learning which are having a measurable impact on children's progress.  The nature of the intervention and the associated measures of success are negotiated between the schools and the PLA through a Service Level Agreement.  This ensures that the PLA is building capacity amongst staff.  Interventions are identified and informed by the data gathered at whole authority level, for example, interventions for writing in the middle stages.  

Education Scotland Inspection Report July 2018 Awards:  

One of the first winners of GTCS Excellence in Professional Learning September 2017 Scottish Public Service Award winner in the category of 'Employee Skills and Development' December 2018

5. Glasgow

This paper provides a summary of how Scotland's largest authority set out a clear vision and strategy for tackling some deep-seated issues such as closing the attainment gap. It has achieved considerable success in delivering on its intentions. In some ways, this encapsulates the 'excellence and equity' agenda which is crucial to us all.

The Glasgow Perspective: Improving Educational Outcomes Through Getting It Right For Every Child In Glasgow 

Glasgow City Council: Report On Attendance And Exclusions

This paper demonstrates how CfE and the structure of educational provision in Scotland can be deployed to make a concrete difference to outcomes for young people. 

Glasgow City Council  Report on Attendance and Exclusions Comparison of Data - August 2018 to June 2019

6. East Renfrewshire. 

East Renfrewshire Council: Progress Report  By Director Of Education To Education Committee On Developing The Curriculum In The Senior Phase, March 2020

1.1. Purpose Of Report

1. The purpose of the report is to update elected members on the progress made with developing the curriculum in the Senior Phase in East Renfrewshire. 

1.2. Recommendations

2. Elected members are asked to note and comment on the Education Department's progress in developing the curriculum in the Senior Phase.


3. In East Renfrewshire the education department's vision of Everyone Attaining, Everyone Achieving through Excellent Experiences clearly demonstrates an ambition for all children and young people and sets out the responsibility placed on everyone who works in education to meet the needs of all and develop their skills and capabilities.  Head Teachers are empowered to deliver this vision and deliver a curriculum in the Broad General Education (BGE) and Senior Phase (SP) based on the needs of their individual communities taking account of national and local guidance e.g. Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and Developing the Young Workforce (DYW).

4. From the outset, East Renfrewshire Education Department adopted a very strategic approach in taking forward thinking and planning within the context of CfE. This included the introduction of the 33 period-week from August 2006, which was undertaken with the long term aim of supporting the design principles of CfE, and the introduction of new qualifications and vocational courses. There was also an annually updated Curriculum for Excellence action plan which set out key activities and outcomes at a school level alongside the national developments.

5. East Renfrewshire Council  guidance reflects the principles of CfE and the rationale set out in the national documentation Building the Curriculum 3; it is clear that schools must provide a coherent, flexible and enriched curriculum for all pupils from 3-18. The curriculum should also lead to improvement in the quality of the learning experiences of children and young people and increased attainment and achievement for all learners. 

6. Within the authority there is evidence from East Renfrewshire Council  reviews and Education Scotland inspections of many strong features in both the leadership of CfE and in the impact of the curriculum on learners' experiences, attainment and achievement. Elected members have been provided with regular updates on the progress East Renfrewshire  schools have made, for example, through the presentations on CfE and SQA performance; inspection reports; the annual Standards and Quality Report; National Improvement Framework Reports (August 2018 and 2019); the Report on Curriculum for Excellence (June 2016) and the DYW Progress Report (June 2017). 

7. Members will be aware of the recent focus nationally on the Senior Phase curriculum, this is as a result of the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee inquiry into subject choices in schools. East Renfrewshire provided evidence to the committee, responding to the initial request for information and providing evidence orally. Following the inquiry an independent review of the Senior Phase has been commissioned.  

8. The independent review will examine what is happening in practice, identifying what is working well and areas for further improvement.  The review will seek to understand the progress that has been in developing the curriculum in the Senior Phase, with particular emphasis on the range of pathways and different types of qualifications available to young people. This report provides elected members with a summary of the progress within East Renfrewshire Council  and the impact for young people.

9. In January 2020 the Scottish Government agreed to widen the scope of the review to include the Broad General Education and the articulation between it and the Senior Phase.  The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will lead this review and will report in early 2021.  A further report will be brought to committee following the conclusion and publication of the OECD's review and any recommendations therein.

1.3 Report

10. Schools in East Renfrewshire are clear that their curricular framework and structure must deliver the six national entitlements. Specifically:

  • a curriculum that is coherent from 3 to 18
  • a broad general education (from early years to S3)
  • a Senior Phase (S4-S6) where learners can obtain qualifications;
  • opportunities to develop skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work, focusing on literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing;
  • personal support to enable them to gain as much as possible from the opportunities that Curriculum for Excellence can provide; and, 
  • support in moving into positive and sustained destinations beyond school.

11. Each educational establishment regularly reviews their curriculum to ensure it takes account of the entitlements and their local context.  This is done in collaboration with its community and takes account of all the relevant data.  

12. Elected members will be aware that schools in East Renfrewshire collaborate within clusters (associated early years, primary and secondary schools), planning together to design a curriculum which is cohesive across sectors, hence ensuring continuity and progression for children and young people at key points of transition. Clusters have been supported to map out curricular progression from 3-18, taking account of the most appropriate pace of learning for pupils.  Clusters plan joint in-service and professional learning opportunities to address areas for improvement identified from analysis of data across the Cluster. The collaborative approach supports transition across sectors and ensures attainment, achievement and experiences are progressive and continuous.

13. Very effective transition arrangements are in place for all children moving from early learning and childcare establishments to primary school and from primary to secondary school. Evidence based on questionnaires completed across a sample of  East Renfrewshire Council  schools shows that in 2018-19, 89% of pupils felt they were well supported in moving to a new school in the last year. 93% of parents and carers agreed with this; 95% stated that their child was well supported if they started at the setting or moved to a new room or group in the last year at their ELC setting.

14. More generally, evidence in relation to whether the Senior Phase curricular framework has resulted in better learning, improved attainment and achievement and delivered the national entitlements is set out in more detail below; this focuses on the most relevant entitlements, namely the third, fourth and sixth.

Entitlement: A Senior Phase (S4-S6) where learners can obtain qualifications

15. In East Renfrewshire, during the Senior Phase young people build up a portfolio of qualifications. The curriculum frameworks developed by our schools provide a range of learning pathways designed to meet the needs of all learners, whether aspiring to achievements at SCQF level 1 or SCQF level 7. There is also a continuing emphasis, for example, on health and wellbeing appropriate to this phase, including physical activity, service to others and work placements. Schools also continue to support young people to participate and achieve in a wide range of areas.

16. In East Renfrewshire almost all pupils will study a minimum of 8 subjects in S4; most will study 5 in S5 and 3 in S6. However, schools adapt the curricular model to suit individual young people.

17. Schools utilise an open course choice structure in S5 and S6 to provide maximum flexibility for learners. Pupil choices are facilitated through the provision of a timetabled class in their base school or by gaining places in neighbouring schools through consortia arrangements. The compact geographical nature of the authority along with the very strong links to Colleges in Glasgow City and the West Regions have helped ERC schools maximise choices for learners in the Senior Phase. However, schools do require sufficient resources in cover transport costs.

18. East Renfrewshire  schools have increased the range of subject choices available for young people in the Senior Phase. Specifically:

S4 - The number of SQA curricular subjects presented at SCQF level 4 and 5 in S4 has increased by 8% and 11% respectively between 2010 and 2019. 

S5 - The number of SQA curricular subjects presented at SCQF level 5 has remained relatively static over the eight year period to 2019. Notably, in ERC there has been a 15% increase in the number of curricular subjects presented at SCQF level 6 in S5.

S6 - The number of SQA curricular subjects presented at SCQF level 6 in S6 has remained relatively static between 2010 and 2019. Notably, in ERC there was a 28% increase in the number of curricular subjects presented at SCQF level 7 in S6 over the same period. 

19. Elected members will be aware that concerns were expressed during the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee inquiry that subject choice was being narrowed in some schools across Scotland. The table below, shows subjects that have experienced significant changes in presentation levels over the last 5 years. It is clear that in East Renfrewshire schools there is no evidence of the curriculum narrowing.  In fact when taken with the details provided in relation to the next section, subject choice for Senior Phase pupils has increased.


Curricular areas where presentation increased significantly 

Curricular areas where presentation decreased significantly 

S4 (SCQF L5)

English 10.5%

Bus Man 7.8%

Drama 6.8%

Modern Studies 6.6%

Physical Education 6.3%

History 5.2%

Biology 4.6%

Geography 9.4%

Graphic Comm 5.4%

S5 (SCQF L6)

English 12.1%

Bus Man 8.8%

Phy Ed 5.2%

Chemistry 2.9%

Mathematics 1.8% 

Music 5.7%

S6 (SCQF L7)

English 4.2%

Bus Man 3.6%

Mathematics 3.6%

Physical Education 2.1%

Music 1.6%

Drama 1.4%

History 1.8%

Graphic Comm 1.7%

Physics 1.5%

Geography 1.4%

20. Along with increasing the range of courses available, elected members will be aware through the 2018-19 Standards and Quality Report, Local Government Benchmarking Framework (LGBF) and the presentations on SQA performance of the very high levels of attainment across East Renfrewshire schools. In 2019, 78% of young people in S4 achieved 5 or more qualifications at National 5, this was the highest performance to date. At Advanced Higher in S6, the authority also achieved its second best ever performance with 40% of the original S4 cohort achieving 1 or more Advanced Higher awards.

21. More broadly over the last 5 years, the performance of East Renfrewshire  schools in S4-S6 has continued to improve. The following key points are noted:


  • The proportion of young people achieving 1+ to 10+ awards at SCQF level 5 has increased; ERC consistently outperforms its virtual comparator (VC) and is well above the national average.


  • The proportion of young people achieving awards at SCQF level 5 has increased for 1+ to 10+ awards.
  • The proportion of young people achieving 1+ to 6+ SCQF Level 6 also increased over the same period.
  • At both SCQF levels 5 and 6 ERC consistently outperforms its VC and is well above the national average. 


  • The proportion of young people achieving 1+ to 8+ awards at SCQF level 6 has increased. 
  • The proportion of young people achieving 1+ to 3+ awards at SCQF level 7 has also increased.
  • At SCQF levels 6 and 7 ERC consistently outperforms its VC and is well above the national average. 

Entitlement: Opportunities to develop skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work, focusing on literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing

22. The  East Renfrewshire Council  vocational programme was introduced in 2004 with 3 courses and 34 participants. Its principal aim was to develop skills for learning, life and work by broadening the range of educational experiences, including work-related and college-based learning, for pupils in the Senior Phase. The use of an agreed timetable schematic in the Senior Phase supports the vocational programme and enables schools to provide a greater range of courses for learners in an efficient way.  

23. In 2014, the Education Department carried out a comprehensive review of the vocational programme.  Key strengths included the very effective partnerships with a wide range of providers which supported the delivery of a broad range of courses at all levels of study. The review also found the programme was very responsive, both in terms of labour market information and meeting pupils' needs.

24. Since the review, the education department and schools have continued to develop the programme in line with  East Renfrewshire Council  Developing the Young Workforce Implementation Plan. This has included holding a wide range of events to engage with pupils, parents, teachers and practitioners, partners and employers to increase understanding of employability, work related learning and vocational pathways. In addition extensive use of the national data-hub in schools and with partners has supported the further development of appropriate pathways for all young people; this includes an emphasis on STEM. During the Education Scotland inspection of the Career Information Advice and Guidance services delivered by Skills Development Scotland in, East Renfrewshire  the use of the data-hub to target and support young people was identified as an area of excellent practice. 

25. The East Renfrewshire Council  vocational programme currently delivers over 70 courses, ranging from level 1 to level 8 to around 600 students, this is up from just over 400 in 2014-15. The courses are delivered in partnership with colleges, universities and employers, allowing pupils to develop skills in their chosen subject as well as valuable experience to help them in the world beyond school. Most recently East Renfrewshire Council  has developed a partnership with South Lanarkshire College. Every secondary school has a Senior Phase prospectus which provides information on all the courses available to S5 and S6 pupils in school and through the vocational programme. This prospectus has supported schools in ensuring that there is parity of esteem between vocational and school based courses.

26. Since 2016 the vocational programme has also included Foundation Apprenticeships which allow young people to gain valuable, real-world work experience and access work-based learning while they're still at school. The vocational programme currently includes over 60 young people undertaking Foundation Apprenticeships across a range of frameworks.

27. As a result of these developments, the number of out of school academic and vocational courses offered to S5 and S6 learners in East Renfrewshire schools has increased by 161% over the period 2010 to 2018. In 2018-19 79% of young people completed their course or progressed onto Year 2 of a Foundation Apprenticeship, up from 73%

28. The latest data provided by the Scottish Government in relation to the percentage of school leavers attaining vocational qualifications shows a very strong and improving picture. At both SCQF Level 5 and Level 6, in 2017-18 ERC performed significantly better than the national average. At Level 6, East Renfrewshire Council  was the highest local authority in relation to the proportion of school leavers attaining vocational qualifications.

ERC National
2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
1 or more at SCQF Level 5 or better 15.3% 16.5% 20.2% 10.7% 12.8% 14.8%
1 or more at SCQF Level 6 or better 5.8% 7.9% 11.4% 1.9% 2.5% 3.8%

29. East Renfrewshire schools continue to focus on providing young people with high quality experiences to develop their skills in literacy and numeracy. Elected members will be aware that the literacy and numeracy attainment in the Senior Phase builds on high levels of achievement throughout early years, primary and the early stages of secondary school. S3 CfE attainment at the third and fourth levels in reading, writing, talking and listening has increased over the last four years, with the 2018-19 performance the highest to date in all four curricular areas at fourth level.

30. In the Senior Phase, Insight data for  East Renfrewshire school leavers indicates the following outcomes:

  • Over the last 5 years, the performance of  East Renfrewshire school leavers in literacy and numeracy at SCQF level 5 and 6 has increased. The performance was consistently greater than our virtual comparator and well above the national average.
  • Over the last 5 years, the performance of  East Renfrewshire Council  school leavers in literacy and numeracy at SCQF level 4 has increased; almost all leavers achieved this measure over this time period.

31. In all East Renfrewshire settings there is a clear and shared understanding of Health and Wellbeing (HWB) as the Responsibility of All.  There is strong leadership of HWB and a commitment to its development through consultation, planning, discussion and professional learning. HWB is a driver for increasing achievement and reducing inequality; in all settings there are effective strategies in place to address issues of equity, leading to improved outcomes for pupils.  Currently, as part of a wider consultation being conducted by East Renfrewshire Youth Voice in partnership with the education department, the views of our secondary school pupils on their experiences in Personal Social and Health Education is being sought.  Findings from this survey will be fed back by the group to our secondary school head teachers.

32. Partnership with parents and carers in HWB is strong. Their active involvement as volunteers, participants or leaders is highly valued and enhances pupil attainment and achievement. Parents and carers value the inclusive, child centred and welcoming ethos they experience in settings, and the principles of GIRFEC and use of wellbeing indicators are very well embedded within the ethos and practices of all the schools and ELC settings.

33. Work to support and develop emotional literacy takes place across all settings with a wide range of activities and programmes in place. Whole school, class, targeted small group and individual activities build and support nurture, resilience, attachment and positive relationships.     In promoting positive approaches to mental health and wellbeing schools and the Education Department have encouraged capacity building and sustainability both in support of staff but also in upskilling pupils and parents through a range of universal and targeted activities.  The Educational Psychology Service recently launched a new HealthiER Minds framework which will be a valuable resource for staff, pupils and parents and carers in promoting and supporting good mental health.

34. Physical activity and sport are recognised as being a major contributor to HWB.  All our schools meet the national entitlement of a minimum of two hours per week of Physical Education.  Twenty schools currently hold the prestigious Sport Scotland Gold Award which recognises engagement in and celebration of physical activity and sport.

35. All settings provide a range of opportunities for pupils to participate in a variety of clubs, groups and committees.  All establishments recognise and celebrate children and young people's achievements, and progress in HWB is acknowledged and accredited through relevant awards e.g. The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, John Muir Trust, Rights Respecting School and Eco Schools Scotland. 

Entitlement: Support in moving into positive and sustained destinations beyond school

36. The proportion of leavers from East Renfrewshire schools transitioning to positive destinations continues to increase. 97.5% of school leavers in 2018-19 entered a positive destination, such as higher education, further education, employment, training and voluntary work; this is an increase of 1.4% from 2014-15 and is the highest ever recorded for East Renfrewshire. The 2018-19 performance was above the national average of 95.1% and our virtual comparator.

37. The school leavers follow-up survey, which is undertaken 9 months after school leaving date, indicated that 96.4% of leavers were in a positive destination. This was the second highest result  East Renfrewshire Council  has ever achieved and well above the national average.

38. In addition the latest participation data (2019) indicated that 96.9% of East Renfrewshire Council   16-19 year olds were participating; this was well above the national figure of 91.6% and the highest result for mainland Local Authorities.


39. Secondary Head Teachers in East Renfrewshire continually evaluate the efficient curricular structures which were agreed some 12-13 years ago (to reflect curriculum design principles of CfE) and regularly consider opportunities to enhance learning opportunities and experiences which will meet the needs of groups and individual learners.  Schools make use of a range of approaches to gather views from key stakeholders including focus groups and questionnaires.

40. In addition, secondary Head Teachers and the Education Department continue to review and develop the Senior Phase curriculum through the regular CfE meetings. This included the agreement of the submission to the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee inquiry into subject choices in schools.

Financial And Efficiency Implications

41. In line with devolved school management principles, most of the education department budget is devolved to Heads of Establishments to support delivery of the curriculum from early years through to the Senior Phase. Within the overall budget a number of funding streams are available to specifically support the curriculum in the Senior Phase.  These include:-

  • SQA budget which supports the presentation of young people for national examinations, £802,000.
  • Funding for the vocational programme of approximately £190,000 per annum (net of savings approved as part of the 2018-2021 savings package; £75,000).
  • Additional Scottish Government grant funding was made available to support the implementation of Developing the Young Workforce over the period 2014-2016.  East Renfrewshire's share of this national funding was approximately £170,000. The funding was used to support the appointment of a (seconded) Development Officer and school based DYW activity. Since then and going forward the resourcing for DYW priorities has been met from existing departmental and devolved school budgets.
  • The Opportunities for All element of the wider No-One Left Behind employability grant is targeted at young people aged 16-19 who are at risk of not making a successful transition from school.  This amounts to approximately £80,000.

42. In addition there are a number of minor budgets devolved to schools to support the Senior Phase in areas such as transport costs between schools/colleges and work experience placements.  


43. Elected members are asked to note and comment on the Education Department's progress in developing the curriculum in the Senior Phase.

East Renfrewshire Council, March 2020

Background papers

1. Report on Curriculum for Excellence in East Renfrewshire Schools

2. Progress Report On Developing The Young Workforce In East Renfrewshire

3. Progress Report on Priorities Associated with National Improvement Framework

4. Local Government Benchmarking Framework: 2018-19 Performance

7. Renfrewshire

This paper focuses on transition between P7 and S1 and from Nursery into P1. It serves to demonstrate the bridges we have between sectors: nursery-primary and primary-secondary

BGE Curricular Transitions: A Local Authority Perspective 


 Renfrewshire's Attainment Challenge Curricular Transitions workstream was enacted in August 2017 as part of a wider strategy to reduce the poverty related attainment gap. Central to the approach are 11 primary practitioners employed as transition teachers tasked with improving the learning and curricular transition (literacy and numeracy) of children between primary and secondary. The model is designed to enable the practitioners to work in both a targeted and universal way over the last few months of primary 7, getting to know children; their cognitive ability, learner identity and culture capital, before moving with children into secondary. In secondary, the team's pedagogical expertise and knowledge of children as individuals enables them to offer high quality, bespoke targeted support, while at the same time, sharing their knowledge of children's prior learning experiences with secondary practitioners to support decisions around curricular design and pedagogical approaches.

In October 2018, the workstream was expanded to include early years. A total of 5 nursery officers joined the team to improve learning and curricular transition between early years and primary 1.  They follow a similar model but work more regularly on a week to week basis between early years and primary 1. 

Curricular Transitions: the vision

'The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows.  Ascertain this and teach him accordingly.'  (Ausubel, 1968)

This quote signifies the importance of cross sector working to ensure a continuity of curriculum and learning which enables children and young people (CYP) to build successfully on their prior learning, rather than risk a learning plateau or regression by taking a 'fresh start' approach at transition. 'Several studies over the years have identified a 'dip' in attainment at the time of primary – secondary transitions with a lack of expected progress and sometimes regression, especially in literacy and numeracy. Various reasons have been given for this dip in academic attainment such as a lack of curricular continuity between schools, differences in pedagogical approaches…and…differences in expectations of teachers.' (Dundee University, 2019; Riglin, Frederickson, Shelton & Rice, 2013). As such, key transition points can be challenging for many CYP, especially those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Without support to make connections between past and next learning, moving sectors can negatively impact learning engagement and confidence, especially for those CYP who already experience a poverty related attainment gap. 

The transitions workstream in Renfrewshire, brings a specific focus to ensuring continuity of curriculum and learning at transition, which enables CYP to connect with and build on prior learning. Our vision is to improve the learning (literacy and numeracy) progression, attainment and long- term outcomes of targeted CYP (where a poverty related attainment gap has been identified) through a support offer which is designed to build engagement, confidence and skills for learning across transition. By learning from evidence gathered through this targeted support offer, our ultimate vision is to drive improvement to transitions culture, practice and systems across the authority, in order to bring about continuity of curriculum and learning across transition and improve outcomes for all CYP

Curricular Transitions: aims and activities

The overall aim of the transitions workstream is to: 

achieve continuity of curriculum and learning progression at key transition points to improve outcomes for all children and young people (including targeted groups), through targeted intervention and a universal offer to support establishments to implement improvements to transitions culture, practice and systems.

There are three focus areas where activities have been developed to meet this aim (i) culture, (ii) practice and (iii) systems which are set out below: 

1.3.1 Culture change

The first focus area is culture change. We aim to encourage a refreshed transitions narrative which guides (i) a clear, consistent rationale (ii) a mindset where transition is a responsibility of all (iii) a move away from old fashioned attitudes and cultures which can negatively impact the progress of CYP e.g. the fresh start narrative and (iv) improved cross sectoral trusting relationships to underpin future work. Key activities within this area include:

  • Changing mindset around the learning barriers at transition - through soft conversations 
  • Enhancing cross sector practitioner relationships to improve future cross sector working – coffee, cake sessions 
  • Alleviating cross sector disconnects around parental engagement at points of transition – through activities to pass on the home – school partnership
  • Supporting a refreshed transitions narrative which encourages seamless curriculum and learning – facilitation of 'A Rationale for Curricular Transitions' professional learning input (transitions v induction, progression v fresh start, joint planning v school readiness)

1.3.2 Practice change 

The second area of focus is practice change. The aim is to model and support new transition practices which are based on collaborative cross sector working, including; cross sector planning of learning and environments; cross sector moderation; quality information sharing; sharing practice in areas such as pedagogy, language, learning styles, learning expectations and family learning. Key areas of activity include:

  • Offering and modelling targeted support across transition for CYP with poverty indicators 
  • Supporting collaborative planning between cross sector practitioners – through cross sector projects e.g. McGunnigle Literacy Project
  • Aligning pedagogy between sectors – through collaborative teaching and modelling practice and pedagogy with cross sector practitioners 
  • Supporting the development of seamless learning environments – taking play pedagogy from early years into P1 

1.3.3 Systems change 

The third and final area of focus is systems change. Within the remit of transition, the aim is to facilitate cross sector professional learning, enquiry and opportunities for professional dialogue to empower practitioners and establishments to design and embed cross sector collaborative systems, thus creating more consistency in curriculum and learning. As noted by Dundee University (2019) 'Teachers should have opportunities to work in each other's classes so that they can better understand each other's pedagogical approaches and introduce more consistency.' 

 Key activities include:

  • Supporting effective use of data across transition to improve learning continuity – development of 'cluster' transfer of information systems 
  • Enhancing cross sector improvement planning and efficient use of cross sector collegiate time to improve curricular continuity – through facilitation of 'Planning for Change' sessions 
  • Encouraging cross sector learning - through facilitation of cross sector peer observations, team teaching and professional learning inputs such as 'Beyond Primary'
  • Advising on how to alleviate cross sectoral differences 

1.4 Curricular Transitions: Building an evidence base

Over a 3 year period, the transition workstream in Renfrewshire has gathered a significant amount of evidence to inform 'what works' to reach our key aim. Evidence is gathered using a range of data collection tools, including a tracking tool for targeted CYP, post transition pupil, staff and family questionnaires and focus groups. The following sections highlight some of the evidence we have collected to meet our aims with the primary focus being on practice change.

1.4.1 Practice change

Practice change has been measured mainly through analysis of the progress of CYP through a tracking tool. The table sets out the criteria for targeting CYP. The tracking indicators used ensure there is a strong focus on providing equity. The age groups ensure activities are aimed at key transition points. Targeted support is offered over a 1 year period and so is short term.

Tracking indicators poverty, attainment and readiness
Age group P7-S1/Early level
Support type Targeted short term

A total 829 CYP across P7 – S1 and 96 early level children have been targeted over 3 years. Progress is measured by way of the tracking tool which collects data on:

  • levels of involvement and wellbeing in learning across transition (Leuven scale)
  • levels of progression in literacy and numeracy across transition (key skills and concepts) 

Data is collected for both measures through deep level observations and then collated onto the tracking tool and analysed using excel. All CYP are the tracked over a number of months (review periods across 1 transition year). Tracking continues for 6 months after support is withdrawn to evaluate the longer term impact. Since the workstream has started, the progress of four cohorts of CYP have been tracked. Data presented is for the most recent fully completed in the 2018/19 academic year. [3] In total the number of CYP tracked in cohort 3 was 214 P7 – S1 (60 early level children cohort 2) 

P7 – S1 Cohort 3 Tracking data: involvement and wellbeing 

Involvement and wellbeing are seen to play an important role in learning progression across transition. Figures 1 and 2 evidence the extent to which targeted P7 – S1 CYP's levels of involvement and wellbeing have progressed. 

Figure 1 Leven Scale of involvement for cohort 3
Figures 1 shows the extent to which targeted P7 – S1 CYP’s levels of involvement and wellbeing have progressed in Renfrewshire.
Figure 2 Leven Scale of wellbeing for cohort 3
Figures 2 shows the extent to which targeted P7 – S1 CYP’s levels of involvement and wellbeing have progressed in Renfrewshire.

Figures 1 and 2 illustrate two key points for P7 – S1 cohort 3 concerning their levels of involvement and wellbeing across the tracking period. First, there was an increase in the number of targeted CYP with 'high' or 'extremely high' scores for involvement between review periods. Similarly, there were increases across the 'high' and 'extremely high' scores for wellbeing. Figure 3 illustrates the progress of CYP with low baselines for both involvement and wellbeing. 

Figure 3 Progress of pupils with low baseline
Figure 3 shows improved wellbeing in  targeted CYP who had ‘low’ or ‘extremely low scores’ at baseline in Renfrewshire.

Figure 3 highlights that the majority of targeted CYP who had 'low' or 'extremely low scores' at baseline have improved with three quarters (75%) reporting an increase in involvement and just over two thirds (69%) reporting an increase in wellbeing.

Overall, it is evident that the targeted support offered by the P7 – S1 transitions workstream has had a positive impact on the involvement and wellbeing of targeted CYP across transition. 

P7 – S1 Cohort 3 Tracking data: progression in literacy and numeracy

The findings presented in this section focus on P7 – S1 CYP's levels of progression in literacy and numeracy, particularly on the shift from awareness to understanding and then to applied learning.  

Figure 4 Progress in literacy measures (cohort 3)
Figures 4  shows an increase in the proportion of CYP with applied learning between review 1 and review 2 in Renfrewshire.
Figure 5 Progress in numeracy measures (cohort 3)
Figure 5 shows an increase in the proportion of CYP with applied learning in Renfrewshire.

Figures 4 and 5 illustrate the observed progress in the shift from awareness to understanding and then applied learning. As shown in Figure 4, there was a large increase in the proportion of CYP with applied learning between review 1 and review 2. The decreases across awareness and understanding demonstrates the positive shift as the cohort increases in applied learning. Figure 5 again illustrates that the most striking observation is the large increase in the proportion of CYP with applied learning between review 1 and review 2 (increase of 27 percentage points). Across the numeracy observations (Figure 5), the trend was similar to literacy. There was a decrease across the areas of 'awareness' and 'understanding' and a demonstrated increase in 'applied learning'.

The following charts illustrate the extent to which progress was observed across all literacy (Figure 6) and numeracy (Figure 7) measures with regards to applied learning. 

Figure 6 Literacy measures applied at review 2 for applied learning
Figure 6 shows progress across all literacy measures
with the exception of ‘increase accuracy of spelling’ in Renfrewshire.

Notes: Use of range of appropriate reading strategies include: (predicting, clarifying, summarising, skimming and scanning

As can be seen from Figure 6, progress was observed across all literacy measures with the exception of 'increase accuracy of spelling' for applied learning. While this demonstrates that targeted support goes some way to ensuring positive progress in literacy for P7 – S1 CYP, the data has also highlighted areas where improvement in targeted support is required. 

Figure 7 Numeracy measures applied at review 2 for applied learning
Figure 7 shows progress across numeracy measures in Renfrewshire.

As shown in Figure 7, there is a clear indication of progress across nearly all numeracy measures. The data indicates a similar trend to literacy and again highlights areas where improved targeted intervention is required (i.e. multiples, factors and primes).

P7 – S1 Long Term Impact

This tracking data is now being used to identify evidence of the long term impact of short term targeted support across P7 – S1 transition. The data is in its infancy but the table and chart below show that the P7 – S1 transition team appears to be improving in their ability to offer bespoke targeted support in literacy and numeracy. The graphs show end of P7 achievement of a level results with targeted CYP improving their performance year on year:

Table 1 P7 attainment of target pupils
  Achieved Expected Level in Literacy Achieved Expected Level in Numeracy
Cohort 1 26% 35%
Cohort 2 53% 57%
Cohort 3 60% 71%
Table 1 P7 attainment of target pupils
Table shows that targeted interventions in wellbeing, involvement, numeracy and literacy have resulted in a positive impact with regards to learning progression across transition for P7 pupils in Renfrewshire
Figure 12 Attainment of target pupils – ACEL P7
Figure 12 shows that targeted interventions in wellbeing, involvement, numeracy and literacy have resulted in a positive impact with regards to learning progression across transition for P7 pupils in Renfrewshire

In summary, it is evident that P7 – S1 targeted CYP are progressing in their learning across transition. These data confirm that so far, the targeted interventions in wellbeing, involvement, numeracy and literacy have resulted in a positive impact with regards to learning progression across transition.   

Early Level Cohorts 1 and 2 Tracking data: involvement and wellbeing

As with the general P7-S1 cohort, deep level observations are used and tracked using the Leuven Scale of Involvement and Wellbeing as well as literacy and numeracy measures. In total, 60 children were targeted for cohorts 1 and 2 [4] (This workstream is a small pilot and so the data is in its infancy). Figures 8 and 9 evidence the change in children's involvement and wellbeing across the review period. 

Figure 8 Leven Scale of involvement for EY cohorts 2 and 3
Figure 8 shows an increase in  involvement indicators  in early years cohorts 2& 3 in Renfrewshire.
Figure 9 Leven Scale of wellbeing for EY cohorts 2 and 3
Figure 9 shows an increase in wellbeing indicators in early years cohorts 2& 3 in Renfrewshire.

In both charts, there has been movement up the scale with an increased percentage of children in the high category. This increase was largest within the wellbeing scale (involvement: increase of 11%, wellbeing: 20%).

Early Level Cohorts 1 and 2 Tracking data: progression in literacy and numeracy

Levels of progression in literacy and numeracy illustrate the observed progress in the shift from awareness to understanding and then applied learning (see Figures 10 and 11). 

Figure 10 Progress in literacy measures ( EY cohorts 2&3)
Figure 10 shows progress in literacy and numeracy in early years cohorts 2& 3 in Renfrewshire.
Figure 11 Progress in literacy measures ( EY cohorts 2&3)
Alternate text for the figure

Figures 10 and 11 illustrate that attainment is higher in literacy at both review points. However, there has been movement in both literacy and numeracy from 'awareness' to 'understanding'. 

Preliminary data for early level target children suggests that progress is being made across a range of measures. These findings will be used to improve targeted interventions across early level transition. 

Practitioner and family perceptions of impact of targeted support across all transition points

In addition to tracking data, evidence was also collected for the most recent cohorts of CYP in the form of practitioner and family perceptions around targeted work. Data is summarised as follows:

  • 84% of primary and 85% of secondary respondents agreed that targeted (P7 – S1) support increased children's confidence and engagement in learning 

90% of primary respondents agreed that targeted (P7 – S1) support helped children to move forward with their learning before secondary and 95% of secondary respondents agreed that targeted support helped children to move forward in their learning during the first few months of secondary 

  • All early years and primary respondents agreed that targeted (early level) support helped both target and non-target children to engage more confidently in learning, settle more quickly into learning in P1 and attain in literacy and numeracy
  • 99% of P7 – S1 family and 100% of early level family respondents agreed that the transition role was positive in helping children with their learning as they moved between sectors 

On the whole, these preliminary findings suggest that the transition workstream has contributed towards improving practice and thus learning progression across transition. 

Curricular transitions: preliminary findings on improvements to transition culture and systems (universal impact)

Over a 3 year period, data has been gathered to show the universal impact of the transitions workstream, in particular how it has influenced sustainable change and improvements to transition culture and systems across the authority. This data has been gathered mainly through post transition practitioner questionnaires and anecdotal evidence. The preliminary evidence indicates that the transition workstream and the development activities deployed, has indeed had a positive impact on culture and systems improvements. Findings from the most recent post transition practitioner questionnaire are highlighted below:

Culture change:

  • 67% of P7 – S1 respondents agreed that the transition workstream supported changes to transition mindset
  • 75% of early level respondents who attended the planning for change sessions agreed that the sessions improved their knowledge and 71% their understanding, of curricular transitions

Within the questionnaire, colleagues also commented on how they felt the workstream activities had impacted on their approach to changing their cultural approach towards transitions. For example, the quotes below highlight that the transition practitioner's role was instrumental in improving relationships and collaborative working between sectors: 

'They offered new and exciting ideas which helped our classroom environment. They also helped us establish a better relationship with the early years establishment and this has extended our classroom practice.' (primary leader) 

'The opportunity to engage in cooperative teaching has improved my pedagogy… I also think it has been beneficial for my primary colleagues to witness the learning and teaching in a secondary school, so that we can all negotiate the expectations and pace set for our pupils during transition.' (secondary colleague)

It is evident that the transitions workstream has supported practitioners to develop cross sector relationships. Furthermore, the workstream has provided the space for practitioners to start soft conversations around mindset and barriers to transition.

Systems change:

  • 99% of respondents agreed the transition workstream shared pedagogy from primary to support better curricular alignment
  • 90% of respondents agreed that the McGunnigle literacy transition project supported children to connect with and build on prior learning
  • 100% of attendees at the 'planning for change' sessions indicated that they would be very likely to use something that they learned in the sessions to develop policy 

In sum, the practitioner comments within the questionnaire illustrate that there is a shift towards a systems change, including more sharing of pedagogy and joint shaping of curriculum to bring more consistency to learning for CYP across some establishments:

'The coffee, cake sessions have supported a tremendous engagement with improving maths pedagogy across the cluster.' (secondary colleague) 

'The experience and knowledge of the transition teacher was able to bridge the gap between the learning in primary and that in secondary.' (primary colleague)

'The transition teacher provides a sense of continuity from primary.' (secondary colleague)

'It's the difference between having a (primary) teacher working side by side with other teachers, sharing ideas in real time, day to day and helping shape the curriculum' (secondary Head Teacher)

The comments from practitioners highlight that the transitions workstream is seen to be an invaluable resource and has begun to improve cross sector working across Renfrewshire. 

Curricular transitions: Areas for improvement

The evidence shows that our targeted approach works for almost all target CYP and that transition teams work successfully across sectors to support curricular transitions for targeted CYP. This initiative has had a significant impact, building increasingly strong relationships between sectors and with parents. However, we still have some work to do to in terms of universal change to culture, practice and policy, especially policy, to improve transitions outcomes for all.  For example, only 14% of P7 – S1 staff agreed in the recent practitioner questionnaire that the transition workstream supports changes to policy. Significant universal changes to culture, practice and policy has been hindered somewhat by:

  • Lack of wider research around curricular transition 
  • Lack of 'buy in' due other commitments and to it being an under researched area
  • The need for greater priority for cross sector working (time and resource) 
  • A long - standing culture whereby induction, not transition has been the focus 
  • Barriers around implementing change (fear of change etc)

1.5 Curricular Transitions: Conclusion

Early evidence indicates that the transition workstream in Renfrewshire is successful in supporting targeted CYP in their learning progression across transition and beyond. Although, there is still some work to do to build a picture of the longer term impact on targeted CYP of this short term intervention. 

Evidence also suggests that the workstream is having some universal impact in supporting changes to transition culture, practice and policy to improve curricular and learning transition for all. However, there is still some way to go before we see sustained, systemic change in this area. 


Zoe Inglis, Development officer Renfrewshire council

Laurie Anne Campbell, Research assistant, Renfrewshire council 

1.6 References

Ausubel (1968), Educational Psychology, a cognitive review. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York; London 

Dundee University, Educational and Life Transitions Research Centre (2019), Primary – Secondary Transitions: A Systematic Literacy Review. Web and Print publication, 

Riglin, Frederickson, Shelton & Rice (2013), A longitudinal study of psychological functioning and academic attainment at the transition to secondary school. Journal of Adolescence 

8. Western Isles Council  

National E-Learning Digital Strategy Proposal And Curriculum Offer For Scotland

9. South Lanarkshire Council 

This Standards and Quality Report is an example of evaluation process and outcome at a local authority level.

South Lanarkshire Council Standards and Quality Report

 10. Fife Council

Partly as a result of the launch of the empowerment agenda (but also for other reasons) Fife Council undertook a redesign of its Directorate structures. This paper provides an overview of that work. 

A Better Connected Directorate: report to Fife Council Education Committee, August 2019

11. Regional Improvement Collaborative Work On Evaluation

The following links provide different examples of how two Regional Improvement Collaboratives are evaluating progress in their areas. 

RICS West Partnership Evaluation of Regional Improvement Plan 2018/19

High Level Critical Indicators for South West Educational Improvement Collaborative (page 75)

South West Educational Improvement Collaborative Summary Data 2019 (Page 45)



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