Curriculum for Excellence provides Scotland with a unique chance to ensure a seamless progression of learning, assessment and qualifications from 3 to 18 for all its young people.
One key idea in CfE is for groups of learners to be able to move through five curricular levels from 3-15 (early years and 1-4) at a pace that suits them, while ensuring they are secure in their learning and have the breadth, depth and ability to apply it.
There is considerable debate about models of curriculum planning, about 3+3 or 2+2+2. It is, though, more important to think about the continuum of learning across all the curriculum levels, including from Level 4 into qualifications.
SQA has designed the new qualifications so that there is a seamless progression in young people's learning from the outcomes and experiences of 3-15 through into Nationals 4 and 5.
It is wrong for people to draw a line at the end of S3 and say this is the point where 3-15 learning (broad general education) stops and learning for the new qualifications starts. The Nationals have been designed so that the continuum of learning allows young people to progress at a pace that suits them.
In other words, there is overlap between Level 4 of broad general education and qualifications. That's not a bad thing; it is about creating a seamless learner journey from 3 to 18 that allows learners to move from the curriculum into the qualifications when it is appropriate for them. Some will reach curriculum Level 3 - so progress into National 4 - at different points in their academic life.
Because of that flexibility, the range of subjects and number of qualifications a learner will take will vary and the qualifications have been designed to reflect this.
The National courses have a notional amount of learning time allocated to them. This is for guidance about how long it would take the average learner to complete the course - 160 hours.
Many learners will have covered some or much of the learning for National 4 in doing CfE Level 4 outcomes, and so may be able to achieve qualifications in less time. Those learners could do up to eight courses through S4.
Others may be less secure in their learning at Level 4 and need more time to achieve a group of National 4s, so they may choose to study a smaller number of subjects over one year, perhaps five, six or seven.
For yet other learners, schools might decide they are working more at Level 3, so they might study eight National 4 courses over two years.
If we think about CfE as a continuum, it provides the flexibility within the education system to meet learners' needs in terms of breadth, depth and pace of learning that is appropriate for them.