This publication raises more questions than answers. I am heartened by a reinforcement of the message that bureaucracy should be reduced. It’s good to see a clear steer that assessment shouldn’t be driven by ticking off “experiences and outcomes” (“Es and Os”), but that these should inform planning; this is what they were designed for.
I am, however, left disappointed. There are inconsistencies. For example, the guidance talks about the primacy of Es and Os and benchmarks, but not the purposes, principles and values that should underpin curriculum development. These are subsequently highlighted in the appendix. The guidance seeks to simplify, but adds new complexity – the benchmarks – which may drive assessment in the same tick-box fashion as the Es and Os. Curriculum for Excellence has often seemed a shifting kaleidoscope of terminology and concepts; the tradition appears to continue.
Finally, the appendix lists much existing CfE documentation as current. This doesn’t seem in keeping with the call for a new narrative. It may be that subsequent guidance ushers in a new and simplified narrative. At present I don’t see this happening.
I offer two suggestions: first, abolish the Es and Os – the main cause of bureaucracy afflicting schools.
Other countries, such as Ireland, are moving away from this over-complex approach, while we are heading towards it.
Second, the often contradictory documentation that has emerged over time must be replaced by a single set of detailed CfE guidelines with a clear and consistent message about the curriculum and its development processes. We are not there yet.
Professor Mark Priestley, an expert on curriculum studies, is deputy dean at the University of Stirling’s Faculty of Social Sciences