The genealogy and governance of ‘A Curriculum for Excellence’. A case study in educational policymaking in post-devolution Scotland

Britton, Alan D. (2013) The genealogy and governance of ‘A Curriculum for Excellence’. A case study in educational policymaking in post-devolution Scotland. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This dissertation has been submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Glasgow EdD. As someone with a professional background in education, government and parliament, and an academic background in politics and citizenship, I was keen to identify an area of study that might draw upon these areas of interest. The emergence of A Curriculum for Excellence as a major new policy initiative in the mid-2000s appeared to represent an ideal case study scenario for just such a study.

I wished to examine the ways in which this policy had been initiated, formulated, developed and implemented. In particular I was very aware of the optimistic and aspirational claims around new and improved modes of policymaking that had contributed to the discourse around devolution in the late 1990s. I wanted to test these claims in the light of the development of A Curriculum for Excellence.

In order to address these claims I developed a conceptual framework that placed a strong emphasis on themes of genealogy and governance. Through this framework, and a methodology based on literature review and in depth interviews with some key participants in the policy process, I hoped to scrutinise some aspects of the Scottish policy process that are rarely examined. These include the influential role of individuals and organisations, the ways in which policy is mediated in an apparent pursuit of consensus and the consequences of this approach to policy.

My core research questions were:

1. To what extent was the genealogy of A Curriculum for Excellence influenced and shaped by the post-devolutionary context?
2. Does an analysis of the governance of A Curriculum for Excellence provide evidence of a change in post-devolution policymaking in education?
3. What does the educational policymaking architecture look like in post-devolution Scotland?
In answering these questions I identified a number of key findings, including that the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) development can be situated in a policy context that has been informed by the advent of devolution. It provides partial evidence of a change in the post devolution conduct of education policy, although some procedures for policy consultation should be reviewed and enhanced further, with a greater focus on deliberative forms of engagement at all stages in the policy process. Policy goals should be stated more clearly and in ways that can facilitate review and evaluation. Procedures should also be put in place to promote greater continuity of staff and institutions involved in the core development and delivery of major policy initiatives in Scottish education.

The policy architecture that has emerged in the post-devolution period is a hybrid model that has not resolved the longstanding tension between consensual, pluralistic and mediating instincts on the one hand; and centralised control and governance on the other. The informal and organic system of checks and balances in the Scottish policy landscape that had evolved in the pre-devolutionary era has to a large extent been retained. This has implications for the scope, speed and ambition of any policy development and implementation, as exemplified by CfE in this case study.

In order to improve the prospects for effective policy change in future, I recommend that the roles of the different organisations with responsibility for educational policymaking in Scotland should be reviewed and clarified. Furthermore the procedures for policymaking should be clarified, formalised and made more transparent in the same way as legislative procedures were reviewed as part of the devolution settlement.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Curriculum for Excellence, education policy, governance, genealogy, Scottish education
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Davis, Prof. Robert A.
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Mr Alan D Britton
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4054
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2013 15:56
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2013 11:41

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