THE passage of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence from educational concept to classroom reality has been a perilous one.

As new research shows, there is still significant uncertainty over CfE, even as 54,000 secondary pupils move towards the first exams in 2014.

The study by Stirling University highlights a succession of concerns, from wide variations between schools, workload issues for teachers and a lack of time for preparation.

Its conclusions will make familiar reading for teaching unions, who have raised the same issues time and again in the eight years since the launch of CfE by the former Scottish Executive.

At the time, the initiative was broadly welcomed by the educational community for its underlying principle of moving education away from the dull regurgitation of facts to pass exams.
Instead, CfE was to usher in a new style of learning, better suited to the fast-changing modern economy which relies on creative thinking and resourcefulness.

Unfortunately, a number of key issues hampered the progress of CfE from the start.

Previous educational reforms such as Higher Still were criticised because they were imposed from the centre, so policymakers decided CfE should develop naturally in classrooms.

But that message was never articulated clearly enough and the initiative was allowed to drift without leadership.

In addition, early CfE material, much of it produced by former curriculum body Learning and Teaching Scotland, was vague and confusing.

The Scottish Government argues that, in recent years, ministers have taken a proactive approach in providing direct support for schools.

The concerns highlighted by Stirling University also predate the most recent £3.5 million support package, which the Educational Institute of Scotland union has hailed as a significant breakthrough.