Learning lessons from the failure of Scotland’s “Curriculum for Excellence”

Filling the pail

In 2011, I attended a presentation by Dylan Wiliam in Melbourne. As ever with Wiliam, it was a lively and provocative session that made me think. I distinctly remember the discussion of ‘Pareto Improvements’which represent a great way of thinking about improving a school or education system.

At that time, Scotland had just rolled-out its ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. Wiliam mentioned this in order to make a point that it wasn’t the curriculum that would deliver excellence but the quality of teaching and learning, something that could be enhanced by the use of formative assessment. A good teacher with a bad curriculum is likely to do better than a bad teacher with a good curriculum. So Scotland could name their new curriculum a ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ but excellence is not necessarily what they would get as a result.

I was convinced by this argument at the time. However, in…

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