Reform Scotland

Think tank criticises ‘disappointing’ inquiry into Scotland’s school performance

Think tank criticises ‘disappointing’ inquiry into Scotland’s school performance

OECD review of Curriculum of Excellence refuses to accept evidence of scheme’s major failings

The Commission on School Reform (CSR), the independent group of education experts set up by the think tank Reform Scotland, has expressed its concern that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is refusing to accept written submissions to its review of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

Following a series of high-profile crises, the Scottish Government has commissioned the OECD to examine the design and flexibility of Curriculum for Excellence, how pupils move through school into the senior phase, and how teachers are supported. The review was initially due to be published in February, but has now been delayed until June, after May’s Holyrood’s election. 

The OECD has refused to accept the Commission’s submission to its review and has said that it will not be taking any written submissions.

The Commission has decided to publish its submission – it can be read here. It identifies a number of problems in the implementation of CfE, particularly in secondary schools, and indicates that there is insufficient focus on knowledge in the teaching of Scotland’s children.

“I’m deeply disappointed at the stance of the OECD. When I met them in person to discuss the review I was hopeful that it might actually be a stepping stone towards the changes we desperately need, but with no evidence being taken from the wide range of organisations which have meaningful evidence and constructive views, I am now less optimistic

“Reform of CfE cannot wait much longer. The truth is that the schools which perform best at the moment are those which have largely ignored the 20,000 pages of guidance which accompanied the implementation of CfE.

“It is critical that this third OECD review of CfE understands the differences between the curriculum as conceived and the curriculum as implemented, which are stark and consequential.

“Scotland’s educational performance has evidentially been moving in the wrong direction during the tenure of CfE. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) recorded a substantial decline in maths, reading and science and our own Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy has recorded a decline in literacy and numeracy at all levels.

“It is now time we stop pretending that we are doing well and open the bonnet of CfE rather than simply adjudicating on the bodywork.”


  1. The refused submission can be downloaded here.
  2. The Commission on School Reform was set up by Reform Scotland and the Centre of Scottish Public Policy. More information, including its membership, can be seen here.
  3. Reform Scotland is Scotland’s independent, non-partisan think tank, with a commitment to: 
    • Increasing prosperity
    • A positive climate for entrepreneurs and innovators
    • Reform and modernisation of public services
    • Widening opportunity for all
    • Compassion for those who slip through the cracks
    • Greater courage and appetite for risk among policy-makers.
  4. For media contact Message Matters (Andy Maciver, 07855 261 244, [email protected])