Evaluation of curriculum design in Scotland: Background

All children and young people in Scotland are entitled to a curriculum which develops the skills, knowledge and attributes they need to succeed throughout their lives. Scotland’s curriculum, Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), places learners at the heart of education.

It helps children and young people gain the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for life in the 21st century. Scotland’s curriculum is “the totality of all that is planned for children and young people throughout their education” from age 3 to 18. This is represented through the four contexts of learning:

  • opportunities for personal achievement
  • interdisciplinary learning
  • ethos and life of the school as a community
  • curriculum areas and subjects

The purpose of the curriculum is encapsulated in the four capacities. These help children and young people become:

  • successful learners
  • confident individuals
  • responsible citizens
  • effective contributors

These capacities reflect and recognise the lifelong nature of education and learning.

A refreshed narrative on Scotland’s curriculum was published in September 2019. This was designed to stimulate fresh thinking, promote professional dialogue about curriculum design and strengthen partnerships to co-design the curriculum. It emphasises the need for schools’ curriculums to be adaptable and responsive to the diverse needs of individual learners and reflect the uniqueness of their communities.

The underlying principles of CfE have regularly attracted favourable comments by international organisations and other nations. In the changing context of Scottish society after the COVID-19 pandemic, across the education system, there has been a renewed focus on curriculum design.

Several national and international reports have supported the conversation around the further development of the Scottish curriculum. Including 'Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the Future' and 'Putting Learners at the Centre'.

More recently, the 'All Learners in Scotland Matter' and the 'Independent Review of qualifications and Assessment' recommended that the Scottish Government focuses again on developing the curriculum.

In order to support schools and local authorities in this work, His Majesty’s Inspectors of Education carried out an inspection of curriculum design in schools and settings across the Scottish education system. This was part of the annual inspection plan for 2022 to 2023.

This national thematic inspection presents an evaluation of how well early learning and childcare (ELC) settings and schools:

  • design a high-quality curriculum that takes account of national guidance and local needs
  • involve the school community and other stakeholders in designing the curriculum