Curriculum for Excellence: Values, Purposes and Principles

Curriculum for Excellence



Wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity: the words which are inscribed on the mace of the Scottish Parliament have helped to define values for our democracy.

It is one of the prime purposes of education to make our young people aware of the values on which Scottish society is based and so help them to establish their own stances on matters of social justice and personal and collective responsibility. Young people therefore need to learn about and develop these values. The curriculum is an important means through which this personal development should be encouraged.

To achieve this, the curriculum:

  • should enable all young people to benefit from their education, supporting them in different ways to achieve their potential
  • must value the learning and achievements of all young people and promote high aspirations and ambition
  • should emphasise the rights and responsibilities of individuals and nations. It should help young people to understand diverse cultures and beliefs and support them in developing concern, tolerance, care and respect for themselves and others
  • must enable young people to build up a strong foundation of knowledge and understanding and promote a commitment to considered judgement and ethical action
  • should give young people the confidence, attributes and capabilities to make valuable contributions to society

In essence, it must be inclusive, be a stimulus for personal achievement and, through the broadening of pupils’ experience of the world, be an encouragement towards informed and responsible citizenship.

Purposes of the curriculum from 3 -18

Our aspiration for all children and for every young person is that they should be successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society and at work. By providing structure, support and direction to young people’s learning, the curriculum should enable them to develop these four capacities. The curriculum should complement the important contributions of families and communities.

With support from education authorities and schools, teachers will have the task of providing activities which will enable each learner to develop to their full potential in the four capacities. Much of what is needed already exists, but it also requires clear guiding principles to assist teachers and schools in their practice and as a basis for continuing review, evaluation and improvement. These principles will apply to the curriculum at national, education authority, school and individual levels.

Principles for curriculum design

Challenge and enjoymentYoung people should find their learning challenging, engaging and motivating. The curriculum should encourage high aspirations and ambitions for all. At all stages, learners of all aptitudes and abilities should experience an appropriate level of challenge, to enable each individual to achieve his or her potential. They should be active in their learning and have opportunities to develop and demonstrate their creativity. There should be support to enable young people to sustain their effort.
BreadthAll young people should have opportunities for a broad, suitably-weighted range of experiences. The curriculum should be organised so that they will learn and develop through a variety of contexts within both the classroom and other aspects of school life.
ProgressionYoung people should experience continuous progression in their learning from 3 to 18 within a single curriculum framework. Each stage should build upon earlier knowledge and achievements. Young people should be able to progress at a rate which meets their needs and aptitudes, and keep options open so that routes are not closed off too early.
DepthThere should be opportunities for young people to develop their full capacity for different types of thinking and learning. As they progress, they should develop and apply increasing intellectual rigour, drawing different strands of learning together and exploring and achieving more advanced levels of understanding.
Personalisation and choiceThe curriculum should respond to individual needs and support particular aptitudes and talents. It should give each young person increasing opportunities for exercising responsible personal choice as they move through their school career. Once they have achieved suitable levels of attainment across a wide range of areas of learning the choice should become as open as possible. There should be safeguards to ensure that choices are soundly based and lead to successful outcomes.
CoherenceTaken as a whole, children’s learning activities should combine to form a coherent experience. There should be clear links between the different aspects of young people’s learning, including opportunities for extended activities which draw different strands of learning together.
RelevanceYoung people should understand the purposes of their activities. They should see the value of what they are learning and its relevance to their lives, present and future.

Although all should apply at any one stage, the principles will have different emphases as a young person learns and develops. So, for example, the need for breadth will apply very strongly in the earlier stages, to ensure that a child will gain knowledge and understanding across a wide range of areas of learning. More options for specialisation will be available later, once essential outcomes have been achieved. The nature of choice will also change as a child develops, for example starting with choices in play activities, moving through choices in topics and contexts for learning and eventually reaching opportunities for decisions between programmes which may have implications for subsequent careers.

There will need to be sufficient flexibility in the way in which teaching and learning is managed to find the right blend and balance for each young person for their particular stage and circumstances. To enhance opportunities and allow greater personalisation of learning, schools will need to look beyond their own expertise and resources so that their students can have access to suitable provision. This may be through technologies to make connections between learners and teachers at a distance, or partnerships with other schools and colleges.