What Scotland needs to do to make its school system the ‘best in the world’

The first major independent review of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) reforms has been published today by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

It says that, with some changes, the school curriculum introduced in 2010 could help the Scottish system to become “among those leading the world”. Here are the report’s key recommendations for the Scottish government:

  1. Commission an independent, Scotland-wide evaluation of how CfE is being implemented “on the ground”.

  2. Improve the quality of information available on the aspects of CfE that matter, not those that are most “readily measureable”.

  3. Simplify and clarify core guidance on the CfE.

  4. Give local authorities a more central role in implementing the curriculum.

  5. Create “stimulating and challenging learning environments” in secondary schools in areas of deprivation.

The report acknowledges that its recommendations will require “deep-seated cultural beliefs” to change before they can be delivered and this will pose “a considerable challenge”. Curriculum for Excellence was born as a result of the national conversation on education in 2002, implementation got underway in 2010, and the first cohort of secondary pupils to experience the changes will leave school in June.

Responding to the report, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We broadly accept the report’s 12 recommendations as complementary to the work we are already doing through the National Improvement Framework and the Scottish Attainment Challenge. We will now lead the work with our partners in Scottish education to take forward these recommendations for the benefit of all of Scotland’s children.”

Montserrat Gomendio, deputy director of education and skills at the OECD, said: “We applaud Scotland for having the foresight and patience to put such an ambitious reform as Curriculum for Excellence in place; we hope that our OECD review will help ensure that it will live up to its full potential and realise excellence and equity right across Scotland.”

The report, Improving Schools in Scotland: an OECD perspective, is available here

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