What is Curriculum for Excellence?

Scotland’s curriculum – Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) – helps our children and young people gain the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for life in the 21st century. A refreshed narrative on Scotland's curriculum, which sets CfE within the current context, was published in September 2019. It is available in both English and in Gaelic.

Scotland's approach

Curriculum for Excellence places learners at the heart of education. At its centre are four fundamental capacities. These capacities reflect and recognise the lifelong nature of education and learning. The four capacities are aimed at helping children and young people to become:

  • Successful learners
  • Confident individuals
  • Responsible citizens
  • Effective contributors

What matters?

Four contextsAs part of their learner journey, all children and young people in Scotland are entitled to experience a coherent curriculum from 3 to 18, in order that they have opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to adapt, think critically and flourish in today’s world.

Curriculum is defined as the totality of all that is planned for children and young people from early learning and childcare, through school and beyond. That totality can be planned for and experienced by learners across four contexts:

  • Curriculum areas and subjects
  • Interdisciplinary learning
  • Ethos and life of the school
  • Opportunities for personal achievement

Curriculum entitlements

Children and young people’s rights and entitlements are central to Scotland’s curriculum and every child and young person is entitled to experience:

  • a curriculum which is coherent from 3 to 18;
  • a broad general education, including well planned experiences and outcomes across all the curriculum areas from early years through to S3. This includes understanding the world, Scotland’s place in it and the environment, referred to as Learning for Sustainability;
  • a senior phase after S3, which provides opportunities to attain and achieve, including to study for qualifications, awards and other planned activities to develop the four capacities;
  • opportunities for developing skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work;
  • opportunities to maximise their individual potential, benefitting from appropriate personal support and challenge;
  • support to help them move into positive and sustained destinations beyond school.

How we do it

Taking curricular aims and translating them into practice is a continuous process. The How we do it section of the Refreshed Narrative sets out key considerations, activities and ways of working to support the process of curriculum making.

Key elements

Curriculum levels

The broad general education has five levels (early, first, second, third and fourth). The senior phase is designed to build on the experiences and outcomes of the broad general education, and to allow young people to take qualifications and courses that suit their abilities and interests.

Curriculum areas

There are eight curriculum areas:

  • Expressive arts
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Languages (including English, Gaidhlig, Gaelic learners and modern languages)
  • Mathematics
  • Religious and moral education
  • Sciences
  • Social studies
  • Technologies.

Literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing are recognised as being particularly important – these areas are seen as being the ‘responsibility of all’ staff.

Related links

  • Benchmarks – The Curriculum for Excellence Benchmarks set out clear statements about what learners need to know and be able to do to achieve a level across all curriculum areas.

  • Experiences and outcomes (often called Es+Os) are a set of clear and concise statements about children's learning and progression in each curriculum area. They are used to help plan learning and to assess progress.

  • Resources to support the Refreshed Curriculum for Excellence Narrative - These resources have been designed to support practitioners in engaging with the Refreshed Curriculum for Excellence Narrative, published on 9 September 2019.

  • Principles and practice - The principles and practice documents are essential reading for practitioners as they begin, and then develop, their work with the statements of experiences and outcomes.

  • Building the Curriculum - The 'Building the Curriculum' document series provides advice, guidance and policy for different aspects of Curriculum for Excellence including: the curriculum areas assessment; and developing skills for learning, life and work.

  • Minutes from the Curriculum and Assessment Board - The Curriculum and Assessment Board has been established to improve curriculum and assessment policy in education.

  • A Statement for Practitioners from HM Chief Inspector of Education (August 2016) - ​The Statement on Curriculum for Excellence provides key messages about what teachers and practitioners are expected to do to effectively plan learning, teaching and assessment for all learners.