Some questions for the authors of the National Curriculum review

The 16th April deadline for submitting a reply to the DfE’s consultation on the draft National Curriculum is rapidly approaching. There has been a great deal of discussion over the past two months over the form and content of the document, principally in regards to the primary history curriculum.

Unfortunately the national debate over the new curriculum has been overshadowed by the Blob controversy, which has created an unfortunate division within the profession between those supporting Michael Gove’s perceived advocacy of more ‘traditional’ direct instruction methods and those supporting more ‘progressive’ cognitive-thinking methods. This has not been helpful and has distracted the argument away from where the real focus should be.

What we should be asking is, is this document one that can be used by schools to design a practical, coherent and effective education? In other words, is the new curriculum fit for purpose?

The following questions are the ones we should, as professionals, be asking the authors of the curriculum:

1. Is the new curriculum practical?

  • Can it be used to plan from?
  • Can it be covered in the time available?
  • Are the programmes of study appropriate for KS1 & KS2?
  • Do teachers have the relevant knowledge and skills to teach the POS?
  • And if not, is the DfE planning to support and fund the appropriate training?
  • Is the timescale for implementation (Sept. 2014) realistic or driven by political expediency?

2. Is it coherent?

  • Has it been properly researched?
  • It is designed with a coherent philosophy of teaching and learning?
  • Does the content match the expected outcomes?
  • Are the different subjects of the curriculum part of a coherent whole or do some areas interfere or contradict others?
  • Are the POS designed to match the assessment methods?
  • Is there a consistent and coherent model of learning appropriate for primary aged children?
  • Do the POS contain prescribed methods of teaching, something which the Secretary of State for Education has consistently said will not be included in the New Curriculum?

3. Will it be effective?

  • Will it provide children with a broad and balanced education or are some parts of the curriculum preferred above others?
  • Will children be challenged by the curriculum?
  • Are the programmes of study appropriate to the age and development of all learners or will some children be left behind?
  • Do the POS allow children to develop through stages – developing understanding in one stage before moving onto another or is the drive to move children through the stages to keep pace with their age?
  • Will the new curriculum raise standards in all areas of education, across the curriculum?
  • Will the new curriculum prepare children for KS3 and for life after school?

These questions are highly debatable and would need a good deal of time to answer. The 16th April deadline is far too ambitious and there needs to be a much longer period of consultation, with far more opportunities for proper open discussion, among a much wider group of participants – something like the Cambridge Review maybe.

We know Michael Gove has postponed the date for publishing the English, Maths and Science curriculum subjects in the past, we need to put pressure on him now to do the same again for the wider curriculum review. If you share this view then please add your name to the petition being organised by Debra Kidd – @debrakidd – you can find more details on her website – Love Learning.

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