Senior phase: headteacher survey

A report on the findings from an online survey of secondary school headteachers exploring their perspectives of implementing Senior Phase of Curriculum for Excellence.

Introduction and context

The purpose of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is to provide young people with the skills, knowledge and experiences that will prepare them for their life beyond school, and provide them with the best possible opportunity to fulfil their potential.

CfE is divided into two phases: the Broad General Education and the Senior Phase. The Senior Phase lasts from S4 to S6 (approximately ages 15 to 18) and follows on from a young person's broad general education. Senior Phase enables young people to deepen their learning through both academic and vocational qualifications and a range of opportunities, such as work placements or volunteering. It supports them in moving on to their next stage, including college, employment, training or university.

Under the Senior Phase, young people are able to acquire a range of qualifications and awards over that three year period. There have been no pre-conceived notions about which qualifications were to be taken at which stage of the senior phase; the guiding principle has been that qualifications are taken at the appropriate stage for the individual young person over the three years of the Senior Phase.

Study objectives

The aim of the research was to provide with up to date information about how the Senior Phase is being taken forward, and to gain insights from headteachers about their rationale for how they were developing the Senior Phase, as well as the constraints and barriers they faced in realising the full potential of Senior Phase. Rocket Science were commissioned to carry out the design, analysis and reporting of this survey.

This report presents aggregate level findings from a recent survey of Secondary School headteachers across Scotland. The survey aimed to:

  • Provide an insight into the views and experiences of headteachers of implementing Senior Phase curriculum in their school
  • Provide evidence of the factors that influence how headteachers implement Senior Phase
  • Provide information on the ways in which Senior Phase is being implemented within secondary schools.

The findings will help to guide follow-up qualitative research exploring, in further detail, experiences of Senior Phase from the perspectives of teachers, young people and parents. The research may also be used to support future policy work around curriculum design in Scottish schools.



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