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Working Together with Schools

Museums and galleries provide dynamic learning environments and rich resources to inspire creativity, learning, and enjoyment for all.


Museums play an important role in collaborating with schools to help deliver dynamic formal learning experiences in line with the Curriculum for Excellence. Your museum has a vital role to play and to support the delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence by working collaboratively with Education Scotland and with individual schools.

Formal learning activities are traditionally divided into age-based groups, focused on:

  • Early Years (0-5)
  • Primary School (5-12)
  • Secondary School (12-18)

There is also an opportunity for museums to work effectively with schools or other formal learning providers to support special education needs and disability education. Increasingly, museums are also finding opportunities to work with higher education institutions, including colleges and universities, and with organisations that deliver programming around life long learning.

Curriculum for Excellence

The Curriculum for Excellence is the Scottish curriculum framework, designed to help young people aged 3-18. This framework is flexible and strongly encourages cross-curricular approaches and interdisciplinary learning. The goal of the Curriculum for Excellence is to enable young people to become:

  • Successful learners
  • Confident individuals
  • Responsible citizens
  • Effective contributors

The framework sets out what young people should learn, know, and be able to do at different levels. The overall aspirations of the framework are to:

  • Improve educational outcomes (attainment) for all young people, with a relevant curriculum offering greater choice
  • Close the gap between high- and low-achieving students
  • Prepare our young people for life, with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to compete in the workforce

The Curriculum for Excellence presents opportunities for museums to contribute and support the learning experiences of children and young people. 

Each subject in a curriculum area has a set of Experiences and Outcomes (often called Es+Os) to be achieved by children and young people as they move through the levels of the curriculum areas. These are a set of statements about children's learning and progression in each curriculum area, and are the outcomes you will need to be thinking about when planning and developing your learning activities. You can find out more about Es+Os from Education Scotland.

The framework is organised under eight curriculum areas for all students up to the end of S3. These are:

  • Languages
  • Mathematics/Numeracy
  • Expressive Arts
  • Technologies
  • Sciences
  • Social Studies
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Religious and Moral Education

Each of these curriculum areas is, in turn, divided into several related subjects. Museums often seem an obvious fit for supporting formal learning in social studies, but your museum can also make a massive contribution to interdisciplinary studies that reach right across the curriculum: work together with education professionals and think creatively about the difference your museum can make to education.

Building and Sustaining Relationships

If you are already working with a teacher or teachers, they are your best resource for improving and building your formal learning programme.

While building on pre-existing relationships with teachers and educators is important, you may wish to make initial contact with a new school. Make sure you choose an appropriate means of communicating with them: e-mails may not be appropriate for time-sensitive communications, as these may go unanswered for many days/weeks during the busiest times. Once you have made contact with an interested teacher or group of teachers, it is important to discuss and agree on the best means of communicating, and to keep these relationships alive.

What do schools want?

Effective communication is key to successfully working with schools. Schools are busy and hectic: a lot of activities are going on at any one time, and the time of teachers' is stretched. To embed your learning activities within and beyond the curriculum in a structured, progressive, and sustained way, you will need to plan carefully and consult with teachers and pupils throughout the development and delivery of your programming.

When planning to contact schools, do your research in advance. Look at the school’s programme online: sometimes, this will include plans for the whole academic year, set well in advance of the August school start. Look at your collections for ways you can compliment the activities schools are already planning. Teachers are always interested in what will help with their teaching.

In developing and sharing your programme for schools, provide a variety and range of learning activities and resources. It is recommended that (where possible) you can offer access to collections both in the museum, and off-site (such as through handling boxes, etc.) to enable wider participation. Use technology where appropriate to facilitate learning in an imaginative way that makes collections accessible, relevant, and interesting.

Making an Impact

There is strong evidence that learning outside the classroom, especially within museums and galleries, has a positive impact on learning. Object-based learning, in particular, has been shown to improve exam results, and can provide an exciting way to embed classroom learning for pupils of all ages. Sharing the benefits that museums and object-based learning offer with teachers as part of your early meetings can help them to better understand the value of work with your organisation.


For further information or support, please contact:

Loretta Mordi

Learning and Engagement Manager

0131 550 4132