YOUR front page story (“Curriculum for Excellence is failing pupils, warns charity”) and the opinion piece from Mike Robinson of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (“Education system was failing… Covid crisis has made it worse”, both September 15) raised some interesting points about the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

Acknowledging that the aims behind CfE were radical and ambitious (interdisciplinary learning, the development of lifelong skills, deeper learning amongst others), he then goes on to criticize its implementation during a period of austerity and cuts. So far so good.

I might go further and say that rather than hark to some golden age of schools, CfE was also much better than what we had.

Then, we get to his nub – private schools prepare pupils for more subjects by doing a two-year NQ programme, whilst most state schools only prepare pupils in fourth year and thus do fewer subjects. So, in reality, it’s back to the issue of exams. In an earlier piece in the agenda column (Herald, September 7), I described this as the ‘tail wagging the dog’.

Actually, you could tweak the current state school provision to do a two-year NQ course, and some state schools do this. We should, according to this strange logic though, alter the curriculum to fit an attainment system which this year – and probably for ever now – is really seen as not fit for purpose.

When the “normal” algorithm (as opposed to the “special” one this year) is applied in 2021, does anyone think the students and parents are going to be happy – unless there is a pass rate commensurate with this year?

Here’s an alternative thought: let the dog wag the tail by fitting new achievement measures to the curriculum – assignments, presentations, continuous assessments, investigations, extended essays, deeper learning experiences.

You can add central moderation in, although not sure that many have much faith in the SQA now. With the exams discredited, we can develop a much better “new normal” in our schools.

Emeritus Professor Henry Maitles,

University of West of Scotland,


THERE are, of course, two meanings for the term “stakeholder” – one who has an interest in something, and one who holds the wooden spike while it is driven into a vampire’s heart. Mike Robinson certainly fulfils both of these as he joins the queue to drive a spike through the heart of Curriculum for Excellence.

I am disappointed, however, that he is unable to view it in any other context than how it affects the Scottish exam diet.

It is usually forgotten that CfE also applies to primary schools and, although it has not endured a trouble-free passage there over the years, it is clear that its greatest problems occur when it runs into the buffers of the exam system in secondary schools.

After the panic and uncertainty that followed this year’s non-exams is it not now worth considering whether they are the gold standard some believe them to be or whether they have become an immovable object which is holding back rather than anchoring the Scottish Education system?

I am open to the possibility that CfE is not the answer to the often exaggerated but nevertheless concerning decline in Scotland’s educational standing but it must not become a convenient scapegoat for some deeper problem.

One of the original aims of Curriculum for Excellence was to produce pupils who could think outside the box. It is unfortunate then that those who run or seek to influence the Education System appear unwilling or unable to do the same.

Robin Irvine,


YET again educational professionals have raised concerns about the Scottish government’s flagship Curriculum for Excellence intended to give pupils the strongest possible start to their academic lives and provide a springboard to success beyond that.

Since its inception, there has been criticism of the scheme as being underfunded with acceptable levels of literacy and numeracy not being reached.

Without a high level of success in the basic building blocks of literacy and numeracy, it’s difficult to see how any educational initiative can achieve its full potential.

Teachers, universities and other educational professionals have consistently pointed to flaws within the system but their constructive comments have been ignored by the Scottish government or lost within the push for Scottish independence.

Even if independence is achieved, a flawed system will not bring the desired results and another generation of children will be subjected to sub-standard education.

Corrective action is needed now and the Scottish government should resume its collection of data so that the public can assess how literacy and numeracy levels are performing. Secrecy is not an option.

Bob MacDougall,