Music & Curriculum for Excellence (CfE)


Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) aims to provide a broad general education by placing learners at the heart of their education. CfE is designed to provide children with opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to adapt, think critically and flourish in today’s world. The curriculum is guided by four fundamental capacities – successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, and effective contributors – and organised into eight curriculum areas, with Expressive Arts being one.

Within CfE, the greatest benefit and challenge of teaching music is the same – flexibility and freedom. As a teacher, you have complete control over what you teach, how you teach it, and when you teach it. This results in teachers feeling either great enthusiasm or great concern. There are five levels to the curriculum, with recommended Experiences and Outcomes, and Benchmarks for each level, with pupils moving between levels when deemed appropriate by their teacher. Again, the fluidity and flexibility of this process leaves teachers feeling either great enthusiasm or great concern. So, how can teachers best approach music to help ensure they provide their pupils with a broad general education that prepares them for life in the 21st Century?

For me, the answer is in a way that best serves you as a teacher, and the pupils you have in your care. With flexibility and freedom comes great opportunity for meeting the needs of your pupils. For example, at 2nd Level, which is recommended for pupils between Primary 5 and 7, one of the Experiences and Outcomes is – I can sing and play music from a range of styles and cultures, showing skill and using performance directions, and/or musical notation. As you can see, this provides great flexibility and freedom. There is great flexibility to engage pupils in a blend of repertoire that includes music that you value, and music they value. These choices can also be linked to the other curriculum areas, or not, depending on the needs of your pupils. Another example is – Inspired by a range of stimuli, and working on my own and/or with others, I can express and communicate my ideas, thoughts and feelings through musical activities. Again, this allows the teacher to place the pupils at the heart of their musical learning. Pupils can bring their own ideas, thoughts, and feelings to the creative process, which the teacher can help to facilitate in a way that best serves their pupils.

These two Experiences and Outcomes alone are clear examples of how the flexibility and freedom inherent in CfE can be overwhelming for many teachers – what to do, where to start, how to progress, what and how to assess? While there are clear answers to all of these questions, there is not enough time in one blog to unpack them all. Please take a moment to look at our Scottish Primary Schools page to see how we can help you achieve the broad general education that CfE aspires to provide.

Vaughan Fleischfresser

Associate Consultant – Scottish Curriculum

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