Evaluation of curriculum design in Scotland: Executive summary

Staff across all schools and settings use a range of national guidance to inform the curriculum. They demonstrate a strong desire to design a curriculum that takes account of the unique needs of their local community. Children and young people are learning outdoors more often. Staff use their local area well as a stimulus and context for learning. Staff in secondary schools are increasingly using local labour market intelligence to develop learner pathways.

Moving forward, staff in schools and settings should continue to take explicit account of how local, national and global issues are integral to the curriculum. Staff must ensure that the curriculum supports all children and young people to develop the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

Staff regularly review the curriculum with the intention of ensuring that it meets the needs of children and young people. The most notable changes to the curriculum in the last few years have been driven by responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, adaptations to the health and wellbeing curriculum are supporting children’s and young people’s mental and emotional wellbeing needs.

However, too many children and young people are not receiving breadth and depth of learning across the curriculum.  

As a priority, staff in schools and settings must ensure that all children and young people receive their full entitlement to a broad general education up to and including S3. Staff need to ensure that they provide breadth, coherence and progression of learning across all areas of the curriculum. This will help young people better as they progress from broad general education (BGE) into the senior phase. 

Senior leaders and staff have a strong understanding of the socio-economic context and needs of the communities they serve. Staff adapt specific areas of their curriculum effectively to address identified attainment gaps, and to meet the needs of learners who have additional support needs.

Senior leaders, working with staff, are particularly skilled at identifying and addressing gaps in learning that children and young people have as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they now need to increase the focus on how the curriculum is designed to raise the attainment of all and close gaps caused by socio-economic challenges.

Engaging the school community in designing the curriculum

Although senior leaders and staff do engage with and gather views from the school community in a variety of ways, they need to involve children and young people, parents and partners more in designing, evaluating and developing their curriculum. This will help ensure that they are giving children and young people a curriculum that delivers knowledge, develops skills, and fulfils the ever-changing needs of society.

Local authorities and national bodies should support senior leaders and staff to do this by ensuring that they produce clear structures, guidance, resources and appropriate professional learning across all curriculum areas and subjects.

Staff in schools and settings should continue to set curricular improvement priorities which are specifically related to their own context. These should support children and young people to build on their prior learning and promote high-quality learning experiences which are relevant and meet individual needs.