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Silenced by the gaps? The status of critical literacy in Scotland’s curriculum for excellence

Jennifer Farrar (School of Education, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)
Kelly Stone (School of Education, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 19 September 2019

Issue publication date: 16 October 2019




Critical literacy foregrounds the relationship between language and power by focusing on how texts work and in whose interests (Luke, 2012, p. 5). It is highlighted as an “important skill” within Scotland’s national educational framework for 3-18 year olds, the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), yet, as this paper aims to show, what the concept means is far from clear for policy users (Scottish Government, 2009e).


Using a lens that draws from critical discourse analysis, critical content analysis (Luke, 2001; Beach et al., 2009; Fairclough, 2010) and Ball’s method of policy analysis (2015), the authors find that the term “critical literacy” has been applied incoherently within key CfE documentation, including the frequent conflation of critical literacy with critical reading and critical thinking.


The authors argue that the CfE’s use of “critical literacy” is a misnomer, given that the version presented is an amalgamation of literacy-related competences drawing largely from psychological and not socio-political perspectives of literacy.

Social implications

This is a missed opportunity, given the Scottish Government’s stated commitment to social justice in policy terms (Scottish Executive, 2000; Scottish Government, 2016), not forgetting the powerful benefits that a critically literate stance could bring to Scotland’s learners at this time of communicative change and challenge.


While the authors offer a contextualized view of the ways in which the term “critical literacy” has been incorporated into Scottish educational policy, they propose that its implications go beyond national boundaries.



Farrar, J. and Stone, K. (2019), "Silenced by the gaps? The status of critical literacy in Scotland’s curriculum for excellence", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 335-350.



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