The Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum is today (Friday) launching its largest ever consultation on the place of Scottish culture in schools. Questionnaires will be sent to 1,000 organisations including businesses, unions, cultural agencies, the churches, political parties and the media.
The council, whose proposals on Scottish history in the curriculum are to be published shortly, is particularly anxious that the review should not be hijacked for political ends. "We want to avoid being targeted by the Bravehearts or the Fainthearts," as one source put it.
A statement stressed: "The links between Scottish culture and what schools teach constitute a set of important but intricate issues. The review will need to engage with difficult questions about national identity and culture but it is not promoting, nor is it motivated by, any particular set of political attitudes."
Neil Galbraith, the council's chairman, will convene the review group and stressed the importance of feedback. "Definitions of culture and identity, never mind Scottish, will undoubtedly provoke a vigorous response," he predicted.
Mr Galbraith, director of education in the Western Isles stressed that the council's deliberations would be "inclusive" and recognise that the curriculum had to reflect multicultural as well as Scottish cultural interests. "It is about the curriculum in Scotland."
The review will be one of the council's most unusual as well as the most consultative in that it will range across the curriculum and across the full 3-18 age range for which the council is responsible. Previous studies have been confined to individual subjects such as technology, science and history or to key stages of education.
The council began its investigations into the Scottish dimension in the curriculum following concern that changes to Standard grade and the Highers made it possible for older pupils to avoid the study of any Scottish history. That remains the position after S2, although pupils are encouraged to pursue a Scottish theme as part of British history.
The Scottish Examination Board, whose requirements dominate the curriculum, has described the present situation as offering "opportunity without compulsion" both in English and history. The position will change if Higher Still gets under way because the proposed reforms will force senior pupils to study a Scottish history theme.