The experience of 50 years of comprehensive schooling in Scotland

Cathy Howieson, Linda Croxford, Danny Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The year 2015 was the 50th anniversary of the introduction of comprehensive schooling in Scotland. This article outlines the two models of comprehensive schooling pursued over this period: the first which aimed to promote a universal, common system, and the second, from around 2000, which has prioritised diversity and choice. Equality (in its various forms) is one of the underpinning principles of comprehensive schooling, and the article considers the impact of comprehensive reform on inequalities, in particular, in respect of social class. It concludes that Scotland has been largely successful in achieving equality of opportunity, has made some progress towards equality of value but equality of outcome has proved elusive. The article highlights the continuing impact of the wider social determinants of inequality and of the selective function of education. It raises concerns that recent reforms, in particular, the Senior Phase of Curriculum for Excellence, may be exacerbating social inequalities in outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-23
Number of pages16
JournalEducation, Citizenship and Social Justice
Issue number1
Early online date6 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • curriculum for excellence
  • equality
  • equity
  • social class
  • comprehensive education


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