In schools across Scotland, young people are experiencing a different approach to education.
The new curriculum has been 10 years in the making. As a result, schools are providing young people with high-quality, in-depth learning that matches their individual needs and interests.
Their experiences, qualifications, awards and achievements at school will set them up well for their lives ahead. We should not lose sight of the magnitude of this, and the enormous collective effort involved as we work to provide our young people with a world-class curriculum.
There is no doubt the introduction of the new qualifications and Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) more widely has meant significant change. Teachers are working incredibly hard to do their best for their pupils. The principles of CfE are widely supported in education in Scotland and internationally.
CfE supports and recognises a wider range of skills, achievements and qualifications than ever before, and in a way that is more responsive to individual needs.
As these improvements take place, it is inevitable there will be changes in some aspects of the education system, such as the number and variety of subjects taken for qualifications.
We know that schools across Scotland have chosen different numbers of subjects, and we fully expect to see changes in patterns of qualification entries.
Schools, together with their young people and parents, are always best placed to make such important decisions.
Learning across fourth to sixth years is now called the senior phase. This is usually delivered in school, but might involve young people moving to college or other establishments.
Decisions on the pattern and number of subjects across the senior phase are made by each school, based on maximising achievement and qualifications by the time young people leave school. For some, this might mean fewer subjects in fourth year but leading to a higher quality of qualifications and a wider range of awards and achievements overall.
With that in mind, it makes sense that, when planning the senior phase, schools will consider, for example, whether it is best for young people to "bypass" National 4/5; that is, to begin two year courses leading to Higher. The emerging picture of these new flexible ways of learning is welcome as it demonstrates better alignment between what a school is doing and what young people need.
The new models show that some schools will plan for six or seven subjects in fourth year, viewing it as a way of achieving deeper learning, making space for recognising success in wider achievements and providing scope for taking qualifications over differing timescales. The guiding principle is that qualifications, awards and achievements are taken at the right stage for the young person over the senior phase that can be up to three years.
Young people will not only focus on qualifications, as they will have programmes that include activities that continue to develop the capacities of CfE and may also lead to other valued awards.
From the age of three to the end of third year, during the Broad General Education, young people will study all areas of the curriculum to higher standards than before. Schools are working with parents and learners to ensure they understand how pupils move through their school years.
Education Scotland provides a wide range of support through working with teachers and publishing materials and resources. We extend our offer of further tailored support, as does the Scottish Qualifications Authority, to any secondary school that feels it needs it at this crucial time in Scottish education. We are here to support practitioners and schools so that they can do their job to the best of their ability.
Any major curriculum change is likely to generate some anxiety as everyone wants to get it right for young people. I hope we can continue to work together and ensure that the curriculum and the new qualifications are delivered to the highest possible standards.
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