Curriculum and opportunity in Scottish secondary education: A half-century of expansion and inequality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Debate about the curriculum of secondary schools has centred on two competing claims. One is the aspiration to provide a broad, liberal curriculum to all students as a route into common citizenship. The other is that a curriculum of this kind, far from being potentially universal, is intrinsically merely the culture of dominant social groups, is inaccessible to people who are not members of these, and is also harmful to most students’ vocational opportunities. The analysis here considers these debates through data from a unique series of surveys of school students in Scotland, covering the whole of the second half of the twentieth century. It thus deals with a period when selection for entry to secondary school was ended for all public-sector schools, and when, following that reform, there were deliberate attempts in policy to extend a liberal curriculum to everyone. The analysis provides some vindication of the reformers’ intentions that a liberal education could be experienced by a wider range of students than in the selective system. But it also shows that inequality of access to a broad curriculum became greater than previously.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)722-744
JournalThe Curriculum Journal
Issue number4
Early online date11 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • liberal education
  • vocational education
  • social class
  • sex
  • comprehensive schooling


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