Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Current Projects

Project Title:

Narrowing the Senior Phase of the Secondary School Curriculum: impact on subject choices, qualifications and attainment of young people in Scotland.

Project Number:



John Matthew Sutherland, University of Stirling
Dr Marina Shapira, University of Stirling
Prof Mark Priestly, University of Stirling

Start Date:

1st February 2021


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. This project is a continuation and development of Project 2018_005 entitled ‘Narrowing the Secondary School Curriculum: impact on subject choices, qualifications and attainment of young people in Scotland’. Project 2018_005 will finish in December 2021 and has been using data up to 2014 (what is currently available) and has focused exclusively on subject choice in S4 and attainment on National 5 level only. 

The current project aims to use the same dataset as Project 2018_005 and subsequent data (2015 and onwards) to explore the relationship between subject choices made for National 4 and 5 level qualifications and attainment in S5/6 of the secondary school curriculum (Nat 5/Higher/Advanced Higher). The project will also explore the relationship between subjects selected for Nat 4/5 in S4 and subjects selected for Higher and Advanced Higher’s in S5 and S6. The SLS data will be used to examine whether there are any trends in the number and configuration of subject choices and subsequent attainment based on individual, school and family characteristics. The subsequent data (2015 and onwards) will be crucial to compare the subject choices and attainment under the old curriculum and the ‘new’ Curriculum for Excellence. 


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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