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Building the Curriculum – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

At our annual conference in 2009 the theme was Curriculum for Excellence. There was a lot of sharing of good practice and many stimulating presentations and workshops. However, at one point in proceedings a speaker asked how many delegates had digested Building the Curriculum 3. Only a few from the audience were brave enough to raise their hands – perhaps a fear that the next question would test their knowledge, more likely a realistic reflection of the time busy school leaders have to give to the reams of paper passing through their offices.

This short digest aims to give you an understanding of the contents of each Building the Curriculum document and to encourage you to take the time to become familiar with them and the other resources on the Education Scotland website: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/thecurriculum/

Beware, while important, these documents are not light reading – copies printed from the links below amounted to 1.6kg of paper!

BtC1 – The contribution of curriculum areas


As the name suggests, this was the first in the Building the Curriculum series. However it was not the start of the road for CfE. Before this was published (2006) some considerable work had already been undertaken. This document sought to kick start discussion, debate and action in schools. It was designed to provide all partners with a “sound base for successful implementation of the new curriculum guidance.

  • Teachers can reflect together on the proposals and respond to them, to inform the development work on experiences and outcomes.
  • They can use the work with colleagues to make connections across the curriculum – for example, to plan a coherent approach to the development of language, numeracy, personal and social skills, or themes such as creativity. This document highlights some areas – literacy, numeracy and key aspects of health and wellbeing – which are the responsibility of all teachers.
  • They can use it to consider with colleagues how to plan for interdisciplinary activities.
  • They can consider their current learning and teaching practices and identify ways of developing them further to reflect all of the four capacities”

Re-reading this document will remind you of some of the early thinking in CfE and is perhaps a useful starting point for everyone to reflect on even now.

BtC2 – Active learning in the early years


This document, published in 2007, was targeted at all staff in pre-school and early years of primary. It highlighted the brining together of the pre-school and school into one curriculum. It noted the diversity of provision in the pre-school sector and suggested that CfE would be a mechanism for all settings to improve their approach to children’s learning and development.

The purpose of the document was to provide an ‘overview of active learning in practice’. It starts by defining active learning, relating that definition to the four capacities and pointing to research which reinforces the value of active learning. The paper then goes on to encourage practitioners to reflect on their own practice and how they might develop it to incorporate more active learning. Finally, it signposts case studies of active learning in practice which can be found on the LTS website.

BtC3 – A Framework for Learning and Teaching


The introductory paragraph of this 2008 document says it all:

“This paper is relevant to all those involved in promoting effective learning for children and young people from 3-18. It particularly outlines important messages for those involved in planning the curriculum for children and young people. It builds on A Curriculum for Excellence: Progress and proposals, provides guidance on a new framework and sets out considerations which are critical to the adoption of Curriculum for Excellence.”…so if you haven’t spent some time with this document, do so now.

The document has useful sections: reflecting on the rationale for CfE, its approach and structure; considering issues around progression; learning, teaching and assessment (although you will need to look at building the curriculum 5 for fuller discussion of assessment); reflection on the purposes of the curriculum at different stages of schooling; and, recognising personal achievement.

A number of headteachers have commented recently that, while they found this document repetitive and of low value when it was published, because of the stage their schools are now at in the implementation of CfE this document is much more meaningful and useful.

BtC4 – Skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work


Published in 2009 this paper was “intended to further support planning, design and delivery of the curriculum…It sets out skills for learning, life and work for CfE and shows how they are embedded in the Experiences and Outcomes…It supports thinking about evidence of progression in those skills and how they can be developed and applied across learning in different contexts.”

The focus of the document is very much on interdisciplinary learning, personalisation, progression through curricular levels and the need for formative assessment. Examples of interdisciplinary learning drawn from schools around Scotland – linking to specific Experiences and Outcomes – are shown throughout the document along with explanations and associated reflective questions.

Annex C replicates principles and practice papers from the Experiences and Outcomes for literacy, numeracy and health & wellbeing across learning. These are essential reading.

BtC4 does go on to look at ‘Assessment and recognition of skills’ but gives little detail – if you are looking for any detail on this you will need to read BtC5.

BtC5 – A framework for assessment


This document, or rather these documents – there are four parts, was published at the start of 2010. It is by far the longest of the BtC documents with the following parts: Executive summary, full paper, a paper on quality assurance and moderation and a paper setting out some frequently asked questions (and answers). This was the paper that many have been waiting for as some have long held the view that without an understanding of how assessment arrangements will work little progress could be made in the implementation of CfE. This paper has not succeeded in quieting all critics but it describes a system which will be broadly welcomed by sectors represented by AHDS.

There is far too much in the paper to provide an adequate summary of the paper here. The first question listed in the Q&A paper gives a flavour of why all members need to read and digest this entry in the BtC series:

“What will be new and different about assessment in Curriculum for Excellence?

There are four main features of the new assessment system in Curriculum for

Excellence (CfE), all of which build on existing good practice. These are:

  • Assessment practices will follow and reinforce the curriculum, promote high quality learning and teaching and give more autonomy and professional responsibility to teachers.
  • Standards and expectations are defined in a way that reflects the principles of Curriculum for Excellence. This will support greater breadth and depth of learning and a greater focus on skills development including higher order skills.
  • A national system of quality assurance and moderation for 3 to 18 will be developed to support teachers in achieving consistency and confidence in their professional judgements.
  • A National Assessment Resource will help teachers to achieve greater consistency and understanding in their professional judgements.

There will also be a major focus on CPD to help teachers develop the skills required.”

There are still unanswered questions about how this CPD will be funded and delivered and about how recording and reporting of progress can be done in a manageable yet rigorous way. AHDS will continue to engage in discussions about this on your behalf. We would welcome any thoughts on the assessment proposals set out in our position paper on this website

Education Scotland website

For direct access to all the BtC documents and a wealth of other resources visit http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/thecurriculum/. Remember, you don’t need to keep checking the site – you can sign up for e-mail updates to help you keep on top of developments. Simply visit the website, scroll down the page until you see a section called ‘keep up to date’ on the right hand side, click it, fill in your details.

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