Inevitably, the debate about Curriculum for Excellence has become bogged down in technicality. The ongoing ‘will they, or won’t they’ controversy about the new qualifications is obscuring the real issue. This is the question of whether CfE is really about what was optimistically termed transformational change, or whether it is merely about tinkering with the existing system. I suspect we need to get back on message – and quickly.

For me, the big question is about how schools might be facilitated in their engagement with the new curriculum – to see it as an opportunity to transform, rather than as an imposition. This requires time, and resources – and sadly these are in short supply just when they are most needed. Our current research – the ESRC-funded Teacher Agency and Curriculum Change project (RES-000-22-4208) – suggests that teachers are willing to engage fully with CfE and see its potential, but that they are hemmed in by rigid structures and accountability systems that make genuine engagement risky and difficult. Relationships in school – horizontal, collegial structures rather than vertical hierarchies – are a vital component of this. However, in many schools such relationships are difficult to establish and maintain, and even discouraged. See http://www.ioe.stir.ac.uk/events/documents/Teacheragency_AERApaper_final_000.pdf for further details of this.  External systems for accountability are also part of the problem – even more worrying as they are seen as the solution to improve schools. Again, we have published on this topic – see https://dspace.stir.ac.uk/handle/1893/3669 for further detail.

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