Building the Curriculum 4 - a perspective

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Building the Curriculum 4 - a perspective
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Building the Curriculum 4 is the latest in a series of information papers intended to help schools and education centres implement Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence.

While previous publications, in particular Building the Curriculum 3, set out the building blocks and framework of Curriculum for Excellence, Building the Curriculum 4 represents a change in the nature of advice and guidance for schools, since the focus of this new publication is the learner.

Building the Curriculum 4 reminds us that it is learners who are at the heart of this transformational change in our education system, and it places particular emphasis on skills development as a means to enable all children and young people to reach their full potential.

The central theme of Building the Curriculum 4 is the development of skills in young people – a wide variety of skills, but also generic and cross-cutting skills that fall into 3 broad categories:

  • Skills for learning
  • Skills for life
  • Skills for work

Developing skills

So what are these key skills?  In what ways do they make a contribution to a young person’s journey through school education?  How do they combine and inter-connect?  And, most importantly, what can schools do to nurture and foster such skills in young people?

In broad terms, the key skills identified in BC4 are as follows.


  • Reading and writing, listening and talking
  • Interpersonal and communications skills
  • Developing an effective vocabulary
  • Critical literacy


  • Confidence and competence using numbers
  • Analysing information and making decisions
  • Estimating, measuring, managing time and money
  • Developing mental agility


  • Critical thinking
  • Classifying
  • Enquiring
  • Creative thinking

Working with others

  • Contributing ideas
  • Sharing roles and responsibilities
  • Learning collaboratively
  • Supporting others

Personal and learning

  • Self-evaluation
  • Setting goals
  • Planning next steps in learning
  • Metacognition

Health and wellbeing

  • Not just about physical health
  • Social health
  • Emotional health
  • Mental health

Problem solving

  • Analysing
  • Evaluating
  • Assessing solutions
  • Making decisions


  • Taking the initiative
  • Persuading and influencing
  • Making decisions
  • Leading others

Enterprise and employability

  • Influencing and negotiating with others
  • Taking the initiative and leading others
  • Working as part of a team
  • Discussing, setting and meeting roles and expectations



Building the Curriculum 4 also identifies some of the attributes that go hand in hand with the development of these aforementioned skills.  It asserts that young people should be:

  • Collaborative
  • Creative
  • Flexible
  • Resourceful
  • Positive
  • Self-aware
  • Optimistic
  • Adaptable
  • Resilient
  • Determined to succeed

Although this list of skills and attributes is extensive, there are however some important skills not referenced explicitly in the document, for example using technology, information literacy and study skills, as well as some attributes, such as those associated with emotional intelligence.

So, the overarching message of Building the Curriculum 4 is that all young people will need a wide range of knowledge, skills and attributes in their daily lives and relationships if they are to become successful, confident, responsible and effective adults who can meet the challenges of life and work in the 21st century.

Learning Environments

One of the underlying questions in this publication is, therefore, what kind of curriculum, what kinds of learning environments will best enable young people to develop such skills and attributes?

As with previous publications in this series, Building the Curriculum 4 places a responsibility on schools to provide regular and meaningful opportunities for:

  • Interdisciplinary learning
  • Active learning
  • Collaborative learning
  • Autonomous learning
  • Thinking skills
  • Metacognition

It is pedagogies such as these that best promote the kinds of skills and attributes that we want our young people to develop.  It is also clear that if the development of skills is to be integral to the work of classrooms, they must be reflected in teachers’ planning and in day-to day learning and teaching.  

Partnership working

A vital part of skills development is the opportunity for young people to be able to practise skills and apply them to real life contexts.   Building the Curriculum 4 asserts that working in partnership provides young people with a broad range of opportunities to develop these key skills, as well as offering scope for greater personalisation and choice.

A key message in Building the Curriculum 4 is that partnership working benefits the young person, the school and the partner organisation.

Partnerships may include those with small companies, social enterprises and entrepreneurs, as well as larger national or international organisations across the private, public and third sectors.  School-business partnerships, work placements, workplace visits and mentoring schemes provide a context for young people to develop and practice these skills.

Partnership working also embraces wider collaboration such as those partnerships between schools and colleges and with other agencies, such as Career Scotland, which provide opportunities for young people to develop skills in a relevant, work-related environment.

It is also clear that there must be effective partnership working between schools in order to ensure that:

  • the needs of young people are met
  • they receive adequate support at key stages, such as transition
  • there is a common language for learning
  • there is a shared expectation and standards.

Assessment and Reporting

Another key message arising from Building the Curriculum 4 concerns the assessment and accreditation of skills.  If skills development is to be at the heart of children’s educational experiences, then we must find appropriate ways to assess, record and accredit skills in ways that are meaningful to parents, employers, universities and, of course young people themselves.

Building the Curriculum 4 raises questions for schools and education authorities about how skills are assessed - in particular how evidence of skills development is gathered and evaluated, recorded and reported.  It highlights the forthcoming National Literacy and National Numeracy qualifications, which will show learners’ achievements in these skills at levels 3, 4 and 5 of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). Building the Curriculum 4 also raises the issue of the wider recognition and accreditation of personal achievement.

Key Questions

So, if earlier publications in this series identified the destinations – what it is we want our children and young people to become – and BC3 gave us the route map, Building the Curriculum 4 highlights the kinds of skills and aptitudes that young people must acquire along their journeys if they are to reach those destinations and become successful, confident, responsible and effective adults who can meet the challenges of life and work in the 21st century.

Building the Curriculum 4 poses many questions about how we can best help young people develop skills for learning, life and work, but the most significant questions are:

  • How best can we provide learning opportunities which enable children and young people to develop, demonstrate and apply a broad range of skills?
  • What are the implications for teachers and other staff responsible for creating these learning environments?
  • How can we utilise the power of partnership to provide wider and more innovative opportunities for skills development?

In summary, Building the Curriculum 4 offers a different perspective of Scotland’s emerging Curriculum for Excellence and the challenge at the heart of this publication might best be summed up as follows.

In a Curriculum for Excellence . . . how excellent can our children and young people be?

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