• Introduction
  • Curriculum design
  • Progression pathways
  • Teaching and learning


Curriculum for Excellence is designed to provide a coherent, flexible and rich curriculum for all children and young people from age three to 18.

Colleges make a significant contribution to the senior phase entitlement of Curriculum for Excellence and supporting Developing the Young Workforce through:

  • Continued development of the four capacities as learners work towards qualifications
  • Active and experiential learning opportunities with vocational relevance which motivate and engage learners
  • Creative teaching and learning, making the curriculum and its subjects come alive for learners
  • Use of a wide range of assessment methods and approaches
  • Development of skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work including technologies for learning.

Scottish Government support and funding has enabled College Development Network to work collaboratively to help the college sector develop and implement Curriculum for Excellence. We deliver a variety of professional learning opportunities and associated resources designed to promote high quality learning, teaching, assessment and understanding standards.

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Curriculum for Excellence sets out the following clear entitlements for learners:

  • A coherent curriculum from 3 to 18
  • A broad general education, including experiences and outcomes which are well planned across all the curriculum areas, from early years through to S3
  • A senior phase of education after S3 which provides opportunity to obtain qualifications as well as to continue developing the four capacities
  • Opportunities for developing skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work with a continuous focus on literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing (which are responsibilities of all)
  • Personal support to enable them to gain as much as possible from the opportunities which Curriculum for Excellence can provide
  • Support in moving into positive and sustained destinations beyond school.

(Abridged extract from Building the Curriculum 3, Education Scotland)

Curriculum design

Research shows that learners learn best when the learning is contextualised and/or has direct relevance to their lives.

Developing the Young Workforce and Curriculum for Excellence promote use of a skills-based curriculum with a clear focus on employment and progression pathways.

As well as developing subject specific skills and knowledge, Curriculum for Excellence design principles mean that Units and National Courses all provide opportunities to develop skills for learning, life and work. These skills cover five broad areas:

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Employability, enterprise and citizenship
  • Thinking skills.

Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) states that curriculum should be designed on the basis of the following principles:

  • Challenge and enjoyment
  • Breadth
  • Progression
  • Depth
  • Personalisation and choice
  • Coherence
  • Relevance

Progression pathways

SQA has been involved in designing and developing new National CfE Qualifications at a range of SCQF levels since 2006.

All of these new qualifications have been designed to reflect CfE aims, values and principles. The same CfE aims, values and principles also informed the design principles for a variety of other qualifications delivered in colleges today – such as Higher Nationals, Skills for Work and National Progression awards (NPAs).

The new CfE Courses include Unit and Course assessment components. The majority of these National Qualifications are hierarchical in design, with learning at the next SCQF level building progressively on the skills, knowledge and understanding developed in the level below. In practical terms, this means that learning is progressive and builds across successive SCQF levels.

Progression pathways are not only vertical in nature and CfE aims, values and principles refer to breadth and depth of learning. Colleges should therefore take account of both vertical and horizontal progression pathways for learners when helping them determine their next steps for learning.

SQA offers a range of documents to help you deliver the new National Courses successfully.

Teaching and learning

Teaching and learning should be engaging, accessible for all learners and designed to provide learners with suitable levels of challenge and demand.

The new Unit approach allows teachers to structure and plan engaging learning experiences and to tailor these to the interests and needs of their learners.

Learning should be carefully structured and planned to develop subject specific skills, knowledge and understanding and complementary skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work.

Key features of teaching and learning:

  • Active learning
  • Experiential learning
  • Applied learning
  • Personalised engaging learning
  • Co-operative learning
  • Independent learning.

Lecturers working in Scotland’s colleges are required to be flexible, reflective, innovative, creative and personally committed to continuing vocational and professional development. Alongside the development of skills and enhanced practice in teaching, there are requirements to remain up to date or even to lead the field in their subject area and to remain current in all aspects of programme design, accreditation and qualifications. There are also requirements to thoroughly understand and respond to wider legislative and policy developments.

CDN LearnOnline offers a wealth of resources and support for the professional learning and development of college lecturers to ensure that you meet the Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s colleges.