Curriculum for excellence: A school guide

Paul Main

How can the Curriculum for Excellence enhance outcomes for children in Scotland? A classroom guide to better thinking.

What is the curriculum for excellence?

Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) – Scotland’s curriculum helps young people and children belonging to the 3-18 age range, gain the knowledge, attributes, and skills needed to thrive in the 21st century. At Structural Learning, our coherent approach to embedding critical thinking skills might be an interesting starting point for any school that is currently undertaking curriculum reform. The changes to curriculum practice have been largely welcomed by school leaders. With an emphasis on skills for learning, students will leave school with the essential attributes of a lifelong learner.

The SCE provides a framework for teaching children at primary school level, through to post-16 education. It includes a set of learning outcomes, standards and assessments. These are designed to ensure that every child receives a quality education.

The SCE is based on three core principles:

• Learning should be relevant to life;

• Learning should be challenging;

• Learning should be enjoyable.

The central aim is that these principles underpin everything that is taught to pupils. They help teachers to develop children as individuals, who are able to achieve their full potential. The SCE helps teachers to plan lessons and deliver effective instruction. It ensures that students receive a consistent and well-rounded education.

The Sce is not just about academic achievement. It focuses on developing young people as whole human beings. This means helping them to become independent learners, confident communicators and active citizens

The main purpose of CfE is to enable all the students to become:

  • Confident individuals;
  • Successful learners;
  • Effective contributors; and
  • Responsible citizens.

What are the Curriculum for Excellence Benchmarks?

Curriculum for Excellence Benchmarks has been formulated to clarify the national standards at each coherent curriculum level within each curriculum area.

Key principles of the Curriculum for Excellence Benchmarks embark clear lines of progression in English, in literacy, mathematics and numeracy, and over other curriculum areas from the Early to 4th Levels. Their main purpose is to demonstrate what students must understand and do to develop across the levels. Benchmarks also support teachers to track, monitor and assess processes. Keeping clear standards that children must accomplish, allow teachers and other education experts to show consistency in their professional judgements.

The Curriculum for Excellence has two broad stages:

  1. Broad General Education: This offers rounded education from the early grades to the end of S3.
  2. Senior Phase: The senior education phase includes education from S4-S6.


The Universal Thinking Framework is the perfect tool for the curriculum for excellence
The Universal Thinking Framework is the perfect tool for the curriculum for excellence

What are the Curriculum for excellence levels?

Broad general education has 5 curriculum levels (From Early to Fourth) across the following curriculum areas.

  • Social studies: In Social Studies, children develop their skills for learning and knowledge of the world by learning about different people and their values, in different circumstances, times and destinations beyond school. They build their knowledge of the environment and of how it has been established. As a child grows up, his experiences will be broadened using European, British, Scottish and wider contexts for learning. There is a focus on the economic, geographic, political, social, and historical changes that have formed Scotland. Children learn about major achievements and different issues, changes and conflicts in society and environmental issues.
  • Technologies: Children will develop broad principles, knowledge, skills, attributes, and understanding at the education institutions through practical, creative and work-related activities across a broad range of areas. Children will use these skills in fields of computing science, business, food, digital skills, textiles, design, craft, graphics and engineering.
  • Religious and Moral Education: Religious education helps a child explore different religions of the world. Children will gain education for citizenship and explore the challenges various beliefs and values present to the world. The children will understand that values, traditions, practices, beliefs, and citizenship skills are important for families and society - locally and globally. This will enable children to build moral decision-making skills.
  • Mathematics and Numeracy: Maths education gives children the opportunity to pursue their careers in fields of science, engineering and technology. Learning mathematics through different learning materials enables children to analyze and interpret information, assess risk, solve and simplify problems, and make informed decisions. Being numerate helps children to contribute effectively and work responsibly in daily life. Learning maths for children improve children's opportunities within the world of business.

Mathematical Curriculum Provision
Mathematical Curriculum Provision

  • STEM: STEM stands for Science, Technologies, Engineering and Mathematics. STEM-related learning and training develop children's expertise in subjects through project-based learning. This allows young people to use STEM as subjects, skills and knowledge in the world of business and to develop new ideas, knowledge, and products.​
  • Languages: ​​There are two parts to learning languages. The first relates to a child's needs to contribute to society and in learning (Gaelic learners, English). The second part relates to learning Gaelic languages / other modern languages of the world. Children and young learners develop a secure knowledge of how to use language to communicate information and ideas in English education and other foreign languages. The main purposes Of education are to build on the students' ability to convey how they think and feel and respond towards others feelings and thoughts.
  • Expressive Arts: These include dance, musical and non-musical skills, drama, art and design. In expressive arts, a child will enjoy the excitement and energy of presenting and performing for different audiences. Expressive arts represent and recognise emotions and feelings, of their own and others.
  • Health and Wellbeing: ​​This programme helps every child and young person to feel valued and cared for as an individual. Teachers use a broad range of methods of teaching to provide knowledge about health and wellbeing and prepare children to cope with uncertain circumstances of life, make healthy choices, have the courage to try new and different options and make the most of opportunities in life.
  • Science: In this ambitious and modern world, learning Science and its applications are fundamental to our health and wellbeing and our economic future. In Science, children study the key topics of the physical world and explore how the world works. They can establish essential skills to learning through investigation, inquiry and observation.

According to the Scottish National Standardised Assessment policy, students at P1, P4, P7 and S3 level of education appear in standardised assessments in writing, reading, and mathematics on daily basis. This kind of assessment allows teachers to identify progress in each of the individual child and independent learners by providing diagnostic information and supporting teachers in making a professional judgement.

Focus on skill development
Focus on skill development

What provides evidence of progress and achievement?

According to the Curriculum for Excellence the evidence of students 21st-century learning, achievement and progress come from sources such as observing everyday learning within the classroom, working area or playroom; feedback and observation from learning activities in other environments, for instance, on work placements, outdoor learning; coursework such as assessment; planned periodic holistic assessment; learning conversations, and information from standardised assessment of pupils.

It must be noted that no single type of assessment can provide teachers with sufficient evidence on which they can make a judgement on education. Rather, professional judgements of teachers are supported by the process of lifelong learning strategy of moderation in which teachers combine to discuss and assess a variety of assessment evidence acquired from the education institute's pupils and young children's ways of learning. This process of CfE for children assures that the teachers have a shared knowledge of standards and goals as mentioned in the National Benchmarks.

Core Principles of Education Systems Benchmarks are created to be brief and accessible, with enough detail to demonstrate the primary school and secondary schools standards required at each level of the national curriculum.

According to the Scottish Policy In Education, all Scottish Schools are required to report on numeracy and learning attainment at the curriculum level. For each phase of education, their data is gathered at the national level. The High-Quality Modern Education Benchmarks for all the curriculum areas assessment must be manageable and proportionate. For proper implementation Of CDE, the teachers and other education experts must get sufficient time to gain knowledge about different aspects of curriculum and the learning journeys benchmarks, to take part in professional discussion and to use these as part of their school improvement plans.