The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Refreshing the narrative on Scotland's curriculum

The Curriculum and Assessment Board refreshes the narrative on CfE.

When it carried out its independent review of Scottish education, the OECD recommended the creation of a new narrative on Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). It made the case for developing a strong, fresh narrative that would “powerfully help to galvanise activity and enthusiasm” at a key transition point for CfE.

Subsequently, the narrative on CfE was one of the first considerations of the Curriculum and Assessment Board, which formed a group to look at the narrative, including expert in curriculum studies Professor Mark Priestley, who explains that CfE “has reached a point in its life cycle which is about consolidation. According to the OECD, there was a clear need to move CfE from being a prescribed curriculum to becoming an implemented (or enacted) curriculum. This requires schools to revisit the core principles, and to ask themselves whether their curricular practices truly reflect those principles.”

curriculum-for-excellence-graphicThe refreshed narrative

There is clear evidence that many schools are indeed responding to this challenge, for example developing clear curriculum rationales, and focusing (in secondary schools) more explicitly on the BGE phase. The new narrative has been explicitly designed as a resource to facilitate this important process.

Mark says: “CfE is only partially enacted in many schools, primarily because systematic engagement and development processes have not happened to the extent that they might have done. There are various reasons for this – lack of time, resources and system capacity included. The launch of the new narrative provides an opportunity to address this issue, through facilitating engagement. It must be emphasised that it is the process that is important here – the narrative is a resource to support this, rather than yet another new product to take into account.”

Twin aims

The narrative has been developed with input from practitioners and serves two broad purposes:

  1. It is a single point of entry to direct practitioners to a broad range of curriculum advice;
  2. The narrative acts as a process to facilitate both engagement with the core principles and big ideas of CfE, and the development of practices to enact these big ideas. The narrative is explicitly structured around why questions, what questions and how questions, and should enable schools to undertake a systematic process of engagement and evaluation as they develop the curriculum.

Bringing CfE to life


It sets out Scotland’s approach, restating the long-standing central importance of the four capacities and the knowledge, skills and attributes that our children and young people need in order that they thrive as democratic citizens, shaping our evermore interconnected, digital and rapidly changing world. It clearly defines curriculum, the four contexts for learning and what children and young people are entitled to.

It also highlights the role of individual empowered teachers and practitioners in making the decisions required to provide a coherent, flexible and enriched curriculum that adapts and responds to the needs of individual learners.

Significantly, the narrative also places considerable focus on how practitioners take the philosophy of CfE and translate it into meaningful practice. It sets out the processes involved in curriculum making, detailing a full range of considerations to be made and actions to be pursued in order to take the principles and big ideas of CfE and enact them successfully in schools, classrooms and other settings.  The refreshed narrative is set to be deployed widely this autumn.