A healthy change of course

3rd November 2006 at 00:00
Building the Curriculum 3-18 - new thinking reflects a strong link between learning, health and well-being

Literacy and numeracy will be at the heart of the new curriculum - but so, too, will be the new kid on the building block - health and well-being.

The curriculum i LESS THAN s to be divided into modes familiar to teachers since the Munn committee reported in 1977 on the shape of S3 and S4. These will be the expressive arts, health and well-being, languages, maths, religious and moral education, science, social studies and technologies.

But the document, having constructed a curriculum, then tries to minimise its significance slightly. The eight areas "simply provide a device for ensuring that learning takes place across a broad range of contexts, and offer a way of grouping experiences and outcomes under recognisable headings".

Each of the areas is expected to contribute to all of the four capacities which schools are expected to instil in pupils to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society.

But some things will be expected to make more of a contribution than others. The importance of literacy, not unexpectedly, is firmly underlined, taking it beyond just English and languages. And it looks like spelling and grammar could make a comeback.

"Competence and confidence in literacy, including competence in grammar, spelling and the spoken word, is essential for progress in all areas of the curriculum," the document states.

"Because of this, all teachers have responsibility for promoting language and literacy development. Every teacher in each area of the curriculum needs to find opportunities to encourage children and young people to explain their thinking, debate their ideas and read and write at a level which will help them to develop their language skills further.

It adds that, "with an increased emphasis upon literacy for all children and young people, teachers will need to plan to revisit and consolidate literacy skills throughout schooling and across the curriculum".

Numeracy is similarly to be the responsibility of all teachers, not just maths specialists.

The inclusion of the health and well-being mode as an across-the-board responsibility is more unexpected, but reflects new thinking about the strong links between well-being and learning. Essentially covering the existing personal and social education mode, the latest rationale stresses that learning through health and healthy lifestyles "promotes confidence, independent thinking and positive attitudes and dispositions".

It adds: "Because of this, it is the responsibility of every teacher to contribute to learning and development in this area."

The Scottish Executive hopes these plans will be seen as forming the basis of "an inter-linked curriculum", with each area contributing to the development of the four capacities in pupils.

Other key points:

Expressive arts

Success will help pupils develop "self-discipline, determination and commitment", the paper states. "For some, the expressive arts provide important opportunities to excel."

The main lines of development in art and design, drama, dance and music will be creating, presenting and evaluating.

Health and well-being

Concerns about the health, diet and activity levels of Scotland's young people emphasise the importance of a focus on health and well-being throughout education, starting in the early years, the planners say.

The importance of forging connections with other subjects to promote well-being is stressed - for example, an arts activity making a youngster feel good about themselves; science and healthy eating and physical activity; learning about relationships through religious and moral education.

Lines of development will cover mental, social, emotional and physical health; PE; eating for health, and safe, hygienic practices; personal safety; drugs, alcohol and tobacco; relationships, sexual health and parenthood; planning choices for school and beyond.


The new curriculum will aim to provide children with an environment in schools which is "rich in language", the document says. Whatever their age, pupils "must spend time with stories, literature and texts which will enrich their learning, develop their language skills and enable them to find enjoyment". Teachers should build on all the languages children bring to school.

Schools will be expected to make links, for example, between the expressive arts and creative writing, and between modern languages and social studies.

Main lines of development in English, Gaelic and modern languages will be grouped into three - reading, writing, and listening and talking.

They will include knowledge about language, "including spelling and grammar".


The importance of maths, including arithmetic, for its own sake is stressed, but also for living and giving youngsters confidence to deal with such things as measurements and managing money. Maths can also be a vehicle for developing resilience through working on challenging problems and communicating solutions.

The new guidance will place a strong emphasis on "active approaches" to learning. Problem-solving is regarded as so fundamental to maths that it will appear in all areas, rather than be treated as a separate element.

These areas will be information handling; number, money and measurement; and shape, position and movement.

Religious and moral education

Teachers will be expected to "take account of the religious and cultural diversity within their own local communities, while recognising the unique role of Christianity within the story of Scotland".

Again, the document makes connections to other areas of the curriculum, such as health and well-being and the religious past and present of Scotland.

The guidance will include opportunities for pupils to dwell on philosophy and will also aim to "encourage deeper learning across relatively fewer themes than at present". Christianity and other world religions will be the main focus, and the existing "personal search" element will occur in both.


Young people need to learn about current science in "relevant, real-life contexts and acquire the confidence to use scientific terms and ideas", the document states. "They can learn to express and justify their views on science-based issues of importance to society."

Scientific study is also expected to have other spin-offs - respect for living things and the environment; respect for evidence and the opinions of others; honesty in collecting and presenting data; and an openness to new ideas.

The revised curriculum will be based on "the big ideas of contemporary science". It will be grouped under three sections: our living world, our material world and our physical world.

Social studies

This area will embrace history, geography, social life, politics, economics and business. The intention of learning about the values, beliefs and cultures of societies at other times and in other places is that pupils become more willing to question intolerance and prejudice, and develop respect for other people.

In an attempt to erase the controversy over accusations that the Education Minister wanted to make history "a thing of the past", the document states clearly that there will be an important focus on "key periods and turning points in Scotland's past and present, and on key elements of Scotland's geography".

The three outcomes will be people in the past, people in place and people and society.


These will cover craft and design, engineering, graphics, food, textile and information technologies. The aim is to make youngsters creative and enterprising. Learning about the impact of technologies on societies should also help pupils with questions relating to the environment, sustainable development and ethics.

There is particular potential for inter-disciplinary work which connects with all other areas of the curriculum, the document suggests.

The main lines of development to be mapped out in the guidance will cover investigating and designing; producing; and evaluating.

Building the Curriculum 3-18 can be found on The TESS website at www.tes.co.ukscotland

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today