A Curriculum for Excellence revealed

3rd April 2009 at 01:00
The TESS charts the journey from draft to final version of curricular guidance

A kaleidoscope of colour outlining which subjects have been substantially revised and why, and which ones have received a lighter touch.

The final guidance on what pupils should experience and achieve under A Curriculum for Excellence was published yesterday - the first time a curricular reform has been issued in a single package.

The draft "experiences and outcomes" - as the guidance papers are called, to reflect that they are written from the pupil's perspective - were criticised when first published, with science facing most complaints.

The final versions have been through various levels of consultation. There have been school trials, local and national conferences, focus groups, university analysis of teacher feedback and residential meetings involving the key bodies (Learning and Teaching Scotland, HMIE, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, and the Scottish Government's schools directorate).

They then went through the hands of LTS's internal project board and curriculum governing group, and finally "thematic reviews" by professional advisers who looked at the curriculum as a whole.

While most teachers have welcomed the openness and flexibility promised by the new curriculum, there are still tensions over how much professional support they require to ensure consistency.

Exemplification is on the way, along with details of how assessment will be carried out. A critical test will be whether the authors of the new curriculum can strike the right balance between giving enough explanation and allowing teachers scope to use professional judgment.

In response to demands from the Educational Institute of Scotland, all teachers will be sent a paper copy of the final experiences and outcomes, avoiding the need to download the document from the LTS website, where they can also be found.

They will find structural changes to the framework: each subject area has been colour-coded, and cross-references to other curricular areas have been inserted in grey type to illustrate where connections exist.


The draft guidance on science was the first to be published by Learning and Teaching Scotland, and received the greatest criticism. Concerns were that the experiences and outcomes had been produced at the expense of conceptual development, core skills and knowledge.

LTS concedes that this guidance has required the biggest rewrite and it might have been more sensible to pilot the draft guidance in another subject area. The biggest change between draft and final versions is the clarification of scientific concepts which should underpin the five areas in the sciences: planet earth; forces, electricity and waves; biological systems; materials; and topical science.

Content is updated and account taken of research on learning in science and of international comparisons.

The framework also includes information on connections to inter-related areas. Thus, the planet earth section, which covers energy sources and sustainability, is linked to renewable and sustainable energy, a topic covered in the technologies section.


Initial reactions were positive about cross-sector and cross-curricular working, but there were concerns that links could be inconsistent. The final version is more explicit, with links to health and wellbeing at early, first and second levels, leading to food and textiles at the third and fourth levels.

The main issue related to ICT: should it permeate the curriculum, as some argued, or should computing be seen as a science in its own right? The final version seeks to do both. It says ICT is expected to enhance learning and makes links to its use in teaching modern languages, but also states that computing is a subject in its own right. The links from maths, science and technologies to engineering are more explicit.

Consultations between LTS, the "Engineering the Future" research group and the STEM-Ed group which promotes science, technology, engineering and maths will provide examples of how these links would work.


Although teachers welcomed the emphasis on problem-solving in the draft guidance, they also felt there was a lack of detail and measurement of standards, particularly at transition points. LTS claims to have taken these concerns on board and taken action to ensure, for instance, that the fourth level in the experiences and outcomes equates with SCQF level 4.

Religious and moral education

When draft plans were published, teachers said they did not reflect messages in the accompanying cover paper. That issue has been reviewed and addressed, says LTS. Concerns were raised about the balance of religious and non-religious content, and there were accusations that Christianity was given too much prominence. Following submissions from a number of faith groups, the wording has been changed from "other world religions" to "world religions".

Religious education in Roman Catholic schools

Overall, the draft guidance attracted few criticisms, although some teachers called for more support for colleagues for whom RE was an additional subject. The term "other world religions" remains for denominational schools.

Social studies

The draft document was generally well received, with teachers commenting positively on the opportunities to make connections with other aspects of the curriculum.

Specific criticisms, however, related to where earth science lay in the curriculum. It now sits between science and social science.

The other charge laid against the draft version was that it was too parochial: in the sections relating to history, there were nine specific references to Scotland but only one to combined "British, European or global" studies and one reference to a non-European society for the purposes of comparison with Scotland. The rewritten guidance now uses the phrase "Scotland or beyond" to try to address this concern.


Literacy, along with numeracy and health and wellbeing, is intended to be delivered by all teachers. When the draft guidance was published, some concern was expressed about literacy being part of literacy and English. It was argued that if literacy was indeed the responsibility of all teachers, then the experiences and outcomes should be embedded across curriculum areas. This issue has now been addressed, with guidance issued separately under the title "literacy across learning".

There is also an attempt to clear up confusion on the definition of "texts", which needs to be "broad and future proof". It now covers everything from novels to graphs, CVs, films, TV programmes, recipes and blogs.

Literacy and English

The redrafted literacy and English proposals have attempted to address one of the major concerns - that there was a lack of progression within and between levels. It also aims to match the expected level of achievement at the fourth level with level 4 in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework.

Literacy and Gaidhlig

There was comparatively little change from the draft to the final version. Any comments from teachers mirrored more general points relating to planning, assessment and progression.

Classical languages

Teachers raised very few issues related to the draft guidance, requesting more opportunities to network.

Modern languages

There were no calls for substantial rewriting of the draft guidance in this section; it was seen as offering an opportunity to revitalise modern languages. What rewriting there was concentrated on reducing inconsistencies.

The draft experiences and outcomes started at second level, but guidance was sought for schools which started teaching modern languages at an earlier stage. That guidance has now been incorporated in an accompanying "principles and practice" paper (called the cover paper in the draft version).

Gaelic learners

Feedback from the draft experiences and outcomes identified a need for initial and continuing language training. Participants in focus groups saw another potential barrier to development in a lack of "child friendly" resources.

Teachers also argued that the relationship between age and level applied to other levels did not necessarily apply to Gaelic learners. The final guidance directs teachers to the increasing range of Gaelic texts available through LTS's Gaidhlig online website, Glow and recent Storlann publications.

Expressive arts

Following protests, the word "magic" has been removed from the draft experiences and outcomes for the final version. Many teachers complained about the terminology, that expressive arts were meant to inspire a sense of "magic, wonder and power". They argued this gave succour to those who portrayed music and art teachers as "arty-farty". The new wording refers to the "inspiration and power of the arts".

LTS has also responded to a feeling that the initial framework for general outcomes was "a bit untidy" and has sought to simplify them.

Health and wellbeing

A lack of explicit progression from early to fourth level was one of the main criticisms of the draft document. More explicit outcomes have now been written into the guidance. Teachers also called for continuing professional development, particularly for non-specialists, while some said they lacked confidence in approaching sensitive areas, particularly relating to substance abuse, relationships and sexual health.

Some external agencies said they felt that issues such as contraception, abortion, sexual health screening, reproductive health, sexual diversity and sexual exploitation and abuse were missing from the draft document. They may still feel these issues have not been addressed explicitly.


This is expected to be addressed by all teachers. Concerns emerged about greater consistency in interpretation and building effective systems for monitoring cross-curricular provision and pupil progress. It is conceded that time is needed, through CPD and whole-school planning, to develop a wider awareness and understanding of numeracy across the curriculum. LTS has introduced more explicit "pathways of progression" to help teachers assess standards and expectations at each level.

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