What did OECD say when it last scrutinised Scotland?

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's long-awaited report on Curriculum for Excellent is imminent

Henry Hepburn

Curriculum for Excellence: What did the OECD find last time in looked at Scotland's schools?

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is due to publish its long-awaited report on Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) on Monday.

But what did the OECD find when it previously scrutinised aspects of CfE in a previous report published in December 2015? The OECD was asked to carry out a review of the "broad general education" phase of CfE, which essentially runs from nursery to S3. It found that, with some changes, the school curriculum introduced in 2010 – although it was conceived long before that  could help the Scottish education system become “among those leading the world”.

Explainer: What is Curriculum for Excellence?

First minister: Nicola Sturgeon’s priorities for first 100 days of government include much-anticipated OECD report on Scottish education

Background: Government accused of 'stitch-up' over OECD review

The findings of the earlier OECD review of Curriculum for Excellence

Some key recommendations from the 2015 report included:

1. Commission an independent, Scotland-wide evaluation of how CfE is being implemented “on the ground”.

2. Improve the quality of information available on the aspects of CfE that matter, not those that are most “readily measureable”.

3. Simplify and clarify core guidance on CfE.

4. Give local authorities a more central role in implementing the curriculum.

5. Create "stimulating and challenging learning environments" in secondary schools in areas of deprivation.

The report acknowledged that its recommendations would require “deep-seated cultural beliefs” to change before they could be delivered and that this would pose “a considerable challenge”.


Curriculum for Excellence was born as a result of the "national conversation" on education in 2002; implementation got underway in 2010; and the first cohort of secondary students to experience the changes left school in June 2016, just a few months after the OECD report was published.

Responding to the report at the time of publication in December 2015, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "We broadly accept the report’s 12 recommendations as complementary to the work we are already doing through the National Improvement Framework and the Scottish Attainment Challenge. We will now lead the work with our partners in Scottish education to take forward these recommendations for the benefit of all of Scotland’s children."

Montserrat Gomendio, deputy director of education and skills at the OECD, said at the time: "We applaud Scotland for having the foresight and patience to put such an ambitious reform as Curriculum for Excellence in place; we hope that our OECD review will help ensure that it will live up to its full potential and realise excellence and equity right across Scotland."

The 2015 report, Improving Schools in Scotland: an OECD perspective, is available here.

The new OECD report has been significantly delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a brief summary published before the publication of the new report on Monday, the OECD says it will include recommendations to "support Scotland as it further enhances CfE to achieve its potential for the present and future of its learners".

The summary states: "Students in Scotland...engage in learning through Curriculum for Excellence, which aims to provide them with a holistic, coherent and future-oriented approach to learning between the ages of 3 and 18.

"CfE offers an inspiring and widely supported philosophy of education. Schools design their own curriculum based on a common framework, which allows for effective curricular practices."

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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