Recent studies show that, under the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), the Scottish secondary curriculum is becoming narrower (Shapira & Priestley, 2018a). Moreover, the phenomenon of curriculum narrowing differently affects subject choice and range and level of obtained qualifications across different schools. Young people attending schools with less advantageous social composition and schools in neighbourhoods with higher concentrations of deprivation are less likely to enter 7 or 8 subjects for their National 5 qualifications and to select facilitating subjects, such as Sciences and Modern Languages (Shapira & Priestley, 2018b). This evidence suggests that the curricular narrowing and the resultant reduction of subject choice under CfE disproportionally affects young people from low socio-economic backgrounds (ibid) and might adversely affect their socio-economic opportunities (Iannelli 2013). Yet the phenomenon of secondary Curriculum narrowing is under-researched.
The proposed PHD study will address the existing evidence gap, examining the ways in which secondary curriculum narrowing under CfE manifests itself and shapes curriculum choices, and the range and levels of national qualifications achieved by young people in different stages of secondary education, from a variety of family backgrounds, attending schools of different characteristics. In order to evaluate whether the introduction of CfE affected educational choices and outcomes, the study will examine cohorts of young people going through secondary education before (prior to 2011) and after the secondary phase of CfE was introduced.
The recent availability of the SQA examination data and Scottish Schools Census linked to the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS) makes it possible to address the aims of the study. The data will provide the PHD researcher with a unique source of information on the curriculum choices, attainment and transitions of young people that can be examined in relation to their individual, family and school context, during the period 2009-2018.