Evaluation of curriculum design in Scotland: Engaging the school community

Staff in schools and settings use a variety of methods to engage with their stakeholders. Approaches to engagement vary, but often include surveys, workshops, focus groups and existing relationships such as the Parent Council and pupil leadership groups.

Staff gather the views of parents, children, young people and partners about elements of the curriculum, most notably when developing or refreshing the rationale for the curriculum. Staff now need to move beyond consultation towards joint production to ensure that the curriculum offer in their establishment is relevant and coherent for their learners. In particular, there is scope for staff to strengthen the influence that children and young people have on the design of their curriculum.


In most schools and settings, staff identify and take forward improvements through self-evaluation and school improvement planning. Senior leaders encourage staff to undertake leadership roles to develop specific areas of the curriculum.

Staff often work together to lead curriculum improvements. This helps them understand the curriculum better and feel ownership of it. For example, in primary schools, teachers often work together to develop progressive learning pathways for specific areas of the curriculum.

In secondary schools, middle leaders have a key role in leading curriculum development, at both whole school and department level. For example, they are often involved in developing the curriculum rationale with senior leaders and ensuring that the curriculum offer within individual subject areas meets young people’s needs.

Staff in special schools develop important networks with other schools who work with children with similar additional support needs. There are examples of staff in schools working in partnership across ELC, primary, secondary and post-school settings to ensure depth and challenge in areas of the curriculum but this is an approach that could be strengthened across the country.

Overall, staff are committed to undertaking professional learning to improve the curriculum. They would welcome more access to high-quality, subject specific professional learning to ensure curriculum programmes are based on the most up-to-date research and knowledge.

In a few schools, senior leaders shared concerns that a few teachers do not see curriculum development as their role. They believe this level of development work is the remit of senior leaders, rather than being an integral part of the role of all teachers as outlined in the General Teaching Council of Scotland Professional Standards. Senior leaders are tackling this through professional learning and as part of staff review and development processes.

Children and young people

Senior leaders and staff recognise the need to ensure that the voice of children and young people contributes meaningfully to the design, delivery and evaluation of the curriculum. This has been driven by influences such as the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child, and through explicit local and national statements of educational policy.

It is crucial that schools encourage effective integration of the views of children and young people in curriculum design. Children and young people are clear that they want their curriculum to be relevant to them and to their lives in Scotland. They want greater choice in what and how they learn.

Staff in ELC settings design the curriculum through balancing adult-led planning with planning which is responsive to children’s interests and needs. Children’s views are often captured and used to plan experiences. In most primary schools, staff engage and consult with children about their learning. This helps to identify topics and approaches that appeal to children’s interests and motivations.

Across primary schools, children are increasingly contributing to discussions to plan and shape their learning, for example in developing outdoor learning. In a few schools, staff use the national evaluation resource ‘How Good is OUR School?’ well to support children and young people in identifying how their views are taken into account and what impact they have. Where this is most effective, children and young people are able to effect change and influence the curriculum and are more highly motivated in their learning.

Staff in secondary schools need to do more to ensure that views of young people influence the design of the curriculum in the senior phase. Positive examples include young people working with school leaders and partners to review curricular opportunities and vocational courses. For example, following consultation on career aspirations and interests, staff review the planned pathways available and which Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) and Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) courses might be added to meet needs and interests.  

Moving forward, senior leaders and staff should ensure authentic engagement of children and young people in the full cycle of designing the curriculum from planning, through delivery, to self-evaluation.

Parents and carers

During periods of remote learning, staff strengthened the way they communicated with parents and carers, often using a wider range of online platforms. Senior leaders regularly consult with parents and seek their views on aspects of the life of the school.

Consultation often focuses on developing a clear rationale for the curriculum and seeking views on school improvement priorities. However, engaging parents and carers meaningfully and collaboratively in designing the curriculum remains a challenge across all sectors. Staff should now build on existing approaches to increase opportunities for parents and carers to be more actively involved in co-developing and co-designing the curriculum.

In ELC settings and special schools, staff work closely with parents to understand individual children and young people’s needs. Staff use this information well to plan the curriculum to meet these individual needs. Across sectors, parents often enhance children and young people’s learning within the curriculum through sharing their skills and knowledge. This helps children and young people see the relevance of skills for learning, life and work.

Parent Councils often support the delivery of the curriculum through fundraising to implement or enhance the curriculum offer, for example through trips and residential experiences. Staff now need to do more to involve parents and carers in shaping, reviewing and evaluating the curriculum. In secondary schools, parental involvement is at times limited to the number of subjects young people undertake in the senior phase.


Partners play an important role in supporting and enhancing curriculum design and delivery, with individuals and groups contributing important, specific skills and knowledge. Staff across all sectors engage with a wide variety of partners to enhance their curriculum offer. This is helping to create choice and to support children and young people’s learning.

In ELC settings and primary schools, partners have a role in contributing to the development of universal approaches, such as nurture or language development, as well as providing targeted support. Many partner organisations provide additional resources to support children to feel included and engaged in their curriculum.

Staff draw on a wide range of local and national partners to enhance children’s learning through the curriculum, for example in religious and moral education and health and wellbeing. Partners could do more to support the design of the curriculum so that children and young people develop their skills and attributes to become responsible citizens and effective contributors to society.

Important links with SDS help staff in secondary schools to take account of labour market intelligence. This allows staff to relate their curriculum to employment opportunities and support young people to develop clear pathways for their career aspirations. Secondary schools often take creative approaches to ensure that departments offer as wide a range of qualifications as possible, for example offering politics and criminology qualifications within Modern Studies.

In schools that involve community learning and development (CLD) staff and CLD partners to support children and young people to access the curriculum, there are clear benefits. For example, CLD staff support children and young people to achieve a range of accredited awards such as Dynamic Youth Awards and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. However, it is not yet commonplace to involve CLD staff in curriculum design. Staff could develop stronger relationships with CLD colleagues to influence curriculum design and widen the curriculum offer for all learners.

Children and young people, parents and staff value the contributions of partners to delivering learning experiences within curriculum. However, settings and schools could strengthen the involvement of partners in planning, designing and evaluating their curriculums. This would enhance community confidence in the quality and credibility of the curriculum, as well as making effective use of an important resource in times of economic challenge.