The Leaders of Learning National Summit: Curriculum for Excellence in practice

My attendance at the Leaders of Learning National Summit was something of an eye opener into Curriculum for Excellence. “It can be hard to articulate Curriculum for Excellence unless it’s demonstrated” I heard commented at the summit. An interesting perspective I thought. Now it occurs to me that this is what Leaders of Learning succeeded in doing: exemplifying Curriculum for Excellence.

Evelyn Wilkins, Web Content Editor, GTC Scotland

The Leaders of Learning Project

The summit was held to mark the launch of the Final Report on the Leaders of Learning Project, the culmination of a year-long consultation with children and young people throughout Scotland led by Children in Scotland. The aim of this project was to find out young people’s views on how they learn and what could make their learning experiences in and out of school even more effective. The consultations were undertaken by Children in Scotland, YoungScot with support from Scottish Youth Parliament, and Children’s Parliament on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Read the Final Report on the Leaders of Learning Project

The conference brought together young people who were involved in the project with education leaders and delegates from national learning bodies to share the outcomes of the project. I had been expecting your average conference, to be honest, with a line up of speakers, PowerPoint presentations, a question and answer session, etc., etc. But what I got was a practical and fun learning experience that really was Curriculum for Excellence in practice. And what was great about the conference was that it was the young people who shared the outcomes of the project on the day, with very little input from adults. How? Well, through activity based “conversations”.

Experiencing Curriculum for Excellence

There was a big room with a number of stands manned by groups of children. Us adults moved between stations every 15 minutes. And at each stand we met and talked with young people about their involvement in the Leaders of Learning Project.

Every group had tackled the project in a different way:

  • I heard about and looked through learner logbooks – booklets children had worked on as part of the project that describe in their words and pictures their own life experiences, and how these have impacted upon their learning.
  • I was talked through a mixed-media storybook by two children that featured the children as the main characters. They were represented in the book by pictures that they had drawn of themselves which reflected how they thought of themselves – the things they were good at and what they did/didn’t like. The storybook did tell a story, while in essence it was a “learner journey”, exploring what gets in the way of learning, personal challenges to learning and who/what helps the children to learn.
  • I learnt from a group of young people how they had researched the impact of their school environment, in particular their new school facilities, on their learning. This was showcased on a laptop through an iVideo created using an iPad. It was great to see how keen the young people were to tell me about their project and how they had created the video.

What was clear from all the children and young people I spoke to was that they had found the Leaders of Learning Project an extremely enjoyable and rewarding learning experience, and they were all very happy to share this with me.

The BeXcellent project

Alongside the Leaders of Learning Project, Children in Scotland, with funding from the Scottish Government, supported a team of young people to remake the BeXcellent Curriculum for Excellence website. The team manned a stand at the summit and gave a presentation about the new website, which was launched on the day of the event.

I love this quote taken from the BeXcellent website, which sums up what the website and Curriculum for Excellence are all about:

“It’s the only site covering the Curriculum for Excellence that is aimed at young people. Even adults get nervous when they hear the words ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ in case you ask them to tell you what it means. Curriculum for Excellence is basically a different way of saying ‘Skills for being awesome’. It’s all about being a successful learner, effective contributor, a confident individual and a responsible citizen. Not exactly rocket science. It hasn’t actually changed what we’re taught. Simply, how we’re taught it.”

Within the space of four months the team has transformed the BeXcellent website from a site written by adults and talked about by adults to what it should be: a website made by and for young people.

Visit the BeXcellent website

Lessons learned

“Supporting young people to lead their own learning is integral to Curriculum for Excellence; however, the full possibilities of the broad general education, including learner voice and supporting wider achievement, have not yet been fully realised.”

As Children in Scotland’s summary of the summit suggests, Curriculum for Excellence is not yet being fully embraced in schools across the country. A brainstorming session held at the end of the conference focused on this issue and asked the question, “how can the Leaders of Learning Project help to shape learner-led education for all children and young people in Scotland?” There were interesting comments with differing perspectives on this . . .

Something that was agreed upon is the huge impact that teachers clearly have on children’s experience of education and, as was commented in discussion, “how dependent CfE is on the teacher”. One perspective voiced was that there’s a real leap of faith that teachers need to take in order to fully implement Curriculum for Excellence, and that this can be difficult for teachers to do. Conversely, others noted that the Leaders of Learning project makes it clear that young people have no problem with Curriculum for Excellence.

Alistair Allan, Minister for Leaning, who participated in the “conversations” with young people, commented at the event: “we can transform learning through listening to young people”. Perhaps most importantly this is what the Leaders of Learning report provides – a representation of the views of children and young people. And perhaps schools and organisations can use the project to promote the innovative and participative methodology used in Curriculum for Excellence.

While it is a leading example, the Leaders of Learning Project is also an example of work that is already going on in schools across Scotland. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to witness this and talk directly with young people about their experience of Curriculum for Excellence. It was a real and meaningful experience that was a much more relevant way to learn about Curriculum for Excellence than any other I can think of. If the project can do this for me, then maybe it can help others who are responsible for implementing Curriculum for Excellence to take things forward.