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Take charge with a fresh, new start

As a new school year begins, there is a great deal of change for pupils and teachers to adapt to: new faces, new subjects, new buildings and new timetables. This is an exciting time which represents opportunity and development, no more so than as we move to implement Curriculum for Excellence and improve teaching and learning in Scotland. Everyone brings with them fresh perspectives, new motivation and valuable experiences, which I hope can be harnessed to take forward the biggest transformational development in Scottish education for decades.

This same energy and excitement lies behind the Scottish Government's approach to modernising and reinvigorating learning. Curriculum for Excellence is not about a sudden, prescriptive change. It is about teachers having the opportunity they have been calling for to be able to use their professional ability fully to lead education in their classrooms.

The framework for experiences and outcomes is already in place - with Building the Curriculum 3 published last year. The experiences and outcomes are designed to enable new approaches to learning and teaching. They place the essential content of learning in a variety of contexts to support the knowledge and skills for learning, life and work that will sustain young people in their destinations beyond school and college. At the same time, they provide the clarity that teachers have been seeking - by illustrating what the four capacities look like in each curriculum area.

Our challenge now is to translate this guidance into lessons and learning for the classroom and we are, therefore, expanding and developing the advice available. The Curriculum for Excellence website includes guidance and a growing collection of good practice examples. One of the latest developments is a new DVD training resource to support nursery and pre- school practitioners, to be published at the end of September. This is an area of unprecedented focus, which offers a golden opportunity to get it right from the start. By ensuring the purposes and principles of CfE are at the root of learning and teaching, we can give every child the best chance of future success.

Already, all 32 local authorities have signed up to Glow, the world's first national intranet for education - digitally linking educators and pupils. This is a highly- ambitious programme which supports the transformation of learning and teaching by breaking geographical and social boundaries and allowing joined-up working and easy access to quality teaching resources.

Each curriculum area on the site has clear links to dedicated areas of Glow and its national groups, established to provide support. Already more than two million pupils and practitioners have logged on to the site. This is now a reality across the country, with grant-aided special schools and independent schools beginning to get on board.

What's more, shortly we will publish an Assessment Framework giving more detailed advice on progression and standards. Good assessment will be integral to improving experiences and outcomes - ensuring that everyone has the information they need to make judgments and decisions about learning. Following the publication of the framework, Learning and Teaching Scotland will be undertaking a series of seminars to promote and publicise this information to the education community.

We will continue to provide the support and resources required to encourage teachers to think about how they can make their own approach to teaching ever more exciting, engaging and relevant. This change is about far more than curriculum content, it is about the very nature of what we do - reinforcing the breadth of learning that Scottish education is famed for.

If we seize this opportunity, the impact will be far-reaching. The responsibility is a shared one. Effective reform must come from practitioners taking ownership of the tools and chances created to meet the needs of individual learners. We have the chance to set standards that will inspire our neighbours and those around the globe.

It is with this level of ambition that I hope everyone will welcome the new school year. Curriculum for Excellence is about nurturing the aspirations of young learners but, equally, it is about realising Scotland's aspirations for the future. To this end, now is the time to adapt learning to the needs of individuals and the modern world and an education to equip young people for the long challenge of life in the 21st century.

Curriculum for Excellence is about instilling a culture of continuous improvement, which will allow young learners to achieve the highest possible standards and ensure they are best prepared to move on to positive and sustained destinations. The exam results received over the summer set the bar high in terms of academic attainment and are testament to the talent, hard work and dedication of pupils and teachers alike. Now we need to raise the bar even higher, to help every young person achieve an outcome we can celebrate and to become not only successful learners, but confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. This may seem like a tough challenge, but I believe it's worth it in shaping our young people so they can shape the nation.

We are building on a strong system. Now the next generation of qualifications is being developed, which will come into effect from 2012- 13, to reinforce the co- herence of young people's education from 3 to 18. This view to the future creates opportunities to develop good practice and stimulate leadership. The future of education is being mapped out, and the start of the school year is a chance to implement new ideas that could help set its course.

We are on the threshold of an exciting future for Scottish education. Our aim is to help all young people in Scotland to take their place in a modern society and economy. Curriculum for Excellence is ambitious, because it needs to be. Now is the time to charge this effort with the innovation and energy that comes with a fresh year and a new start.

Pupils and teachers alike will be returning from the freedom, flexibility and creativity of the summer holidays, but this year it is a return to a new way of teaching and learning which thrives on freedom, flexibility and creativity. I hope everyone will give it all they've got.

Fiona Hyslop is Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.

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