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Exploring the impact of curriculum policy on choice, attainment and destinations

Researchers: Dr Marina Shapira | Prof. Mark Priestley

Project overview

The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) aims to improve the breadth and depth of learning for young people in order to prepare them for life in the 21st Century. This project will explore how CfE is being delivered in Scottish secondary schools, the relationships between patterns of provision and young people’s educational pathways, and how this varies by socio-economic background.

Emerging evidence suggests that contrary to policy intentions, subject choices have narrowed in recent years, particularly in more disadvantaged areas. This project will provide important new evidence to better understand CfE curriculum provision, the factors that shape this and how it influences student choice, attainment, subsequent education and early employment destinations.

The researchers will analyse administrative data, including the Scottish Longitudinal Study to explore trends in curriculum subjects offered by schools, student subject choice and family background. A survey of headteachers and school case studies will provide a more detailed picture of the issues shaping curriculum decisions.

Project findings should help to inform CfE’s future direction and implementation, and other similar curriculum policies which are being developed across the UK and internationally.


  • Dr Marina Shapira
    University of Stirling
  • Prof. Mark Priestley
    University of Stirling

  • Cheryl Lloyd
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.