Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence

An introduction

So, you've heard of the Curriculum for Excellence - or maybe not. You might have heard about it but have no idea what it means. Here's a gentle introduction to cover the basics.

Levels and structure

We're used to following children's progress through school based on what year they're in. This can be mapped out as shown below.

CfE levels
How the levels look in nurseries, primary and secondary schools

The first new thing to note is the introduction of levels.

This is a simplified guide as children will move through the levels (and different subjects) at their own pace. For example, a child can be in Primary 4 but progressing quickly, so would perhaps move on to a higher level ahead of other classmates.

Assessment and moving up the levels

In P7 and S3 the school will produce a profile of learner achievement.

Progress is communicated to parents in the familiar way of report cards and parents' evenings.

Teachers will look at a mix of written tests, artworks, projects, performances and presentations and check these against what are called the experiences and outcomes.

You may come across the phrase "secure in their learning". This just means they have met the experiences and outcomes at one level and are ready to move on to the next.

More phrases you're likely to hear are the four capacities which, taken together, is the general 'mission statement' of the new curriculum, aiming to tailor young people into:

Exams and qualifications

Exams will now come in at S4, instead of the course starting in S3.

The plan is that pupils will no longer choose subjects at the end of S2. In S3 they will continue to study a full range of subjects, only specialising when they reach S4. Have a look at some example learner journeys for what that could mean.

No more Standard Grades or Intermediates: Standard Grades will stop and Intermediates will be phased out – to be replaced from the academic year 2013/2014 by new National 4 and 5 qualifications.

Access levels, Higher and Advanced Higher will be revised but remain.

The levels of qualifications on offer will be:

Check this ready reckoner to see how they line up against other SQA qualifications.

Subjects and the approach to teaching

There are three core subjects, Health and wellbeing, Literacy and Numeracy, which are to be taught across the school. All teachers, regardless of subject, should ensure these are reflected in their lessons.

There is also the aim to join up more subjects on topic-based learning - using skills and knowledge from more than one subject within a project. A project on weather could combine elements of geography, maths, art and the sciences. Choose the right poem or piece of music, and English and music could join in the mix too.

It's up to teachers (and hopefully pupils too) to decide what to study. Schools are being encouraged to do their own thing, using people and places in their local area, or the individual interests of classes and pupils to choose topics to focus on. The idea is that this will make lessons more relevant and therefore more rewarding for children.

The best way to understand what's actually happening in the classroom is by being in one. Talking to teachers and pupils and taking a look at case studies will help you get involved with your own child's learning journeys, in and out of school.

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