Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Current Projects

Project Title:

Narrowing the curriculum: Impact of Scottish curriculum for excellence of subject choices and attainment of young people in Scotland

Project Number:



Dr Marina Shapira (University of Stirling)
Feifei Bu (University of Stirling)
Mark Priestley (University of Stirling)

Start Date:

April 2018


Curricular decisions such as subject choices in the senior stage of secondary education, are crucial for the attainment of young people (Iannelli et al. 2015). Existing research shows that subject choices are socially patterned: students from the lower socio-economic background are less likely to choose subjects that would facilitate their career options and transition to HE (Iannelli & Klein 2015). Existing studies examined the subject choice and its consequences under the ‘old’ Scottish school curriculum. Yet, evidence suggests that introduction of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) resulted in a curricular narrowing and the widespread reduction of choice in many secondary schools and that this trend is disproportionally affecting students from low socio-economic background (Priestley & Shapira 2017). We are proposing to examine the changing impact of the number and configuration of subject choices on the attainment of Scottish secondary school students who go through the senior stages of secondary education (years S4-S6 of Scottish secondary school system) during the period of introduction of the CfE (2009 onwards) and explore the ways the subject choices mediate the relationship between family socio-economic backgrounds, school characteristics and attainment. Our mail research questions are: What are the trends in the impact of the number and configuration of subject choices in years S3-S5 on students’ attainment? Is the relationship between the number and configuration of subject choices and attainment during the secondary phase of education vary by family characteristics and school characteristics?


Iannelli, C. and Duta, A. (2017). “Inequalities in school leavers’ labour market outcomes: do school subject choices matter”, Centre for Longitudinal Studies Working Paper 2017/3

Iannelli, C. and Klein, M. (2015). “Subject choice and inequalities in access to Higher Education: Comparing Scotland and Ireland”, AQMeN research briefing 7 (

Iannelli, C., Smyth, E. and Klein, M. (2015). “Curriculum differentiation and social inequality in higher education entry in Scotland and Ireland” (British Education Research Journal, available at

Perry, L.B. and Southwell, L. (2014). “Access to academic curriculum in Australian secondary schools: a case study of a highly marketised education system”. Journal of Education Policy Vol. 29 (4).

Priestley, M and Biesta, G.J.J. (eds.) (2013). Reinventing the curriculum: new trends in curriculum policy and practice. London: Bloomsbury.

Priestly, M. and Shapira, M. (2017). “Narrowing the Curriculum? Contemporary trends in provision and attainment in the Scottish Curriculum”, accepted for publication in Scottish Review of Education

Raab, G. M. (2013). Education data available within the Scottish Longitudinal Study. Scottish Longitudinal Development & Support Unit Technical Working Paper. 6

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