National Curriculum Consultation: Part 1

The proposals for the latest version of the National Curriculum for England were announced last week. We would urge people to respond to this document as soon as possible – the consultation period finishes on April 16th 2013. This of course means that the teaching profession as a whole, parents and school governing bodies only have just over half a term to consider a response to a set of proposals that are supposed to be of great importance to the future of education and all our children.

Department for Education - England-2

We’re aware that for many of our world-wide readers these changes to the English National Curriculum aren’t as relevant as they are to readers in England (NB the changes to the NC are for English schools only and not the entire UK). However, we think there are some fundamental issues that apply to education globally, and we would welcome comments from around the world as to how this new proposed curriculum – and its process for consultation, differs from or is similar to your own. We’ll comment on the proposals for specific subject areas in future posts. For now, we’re concentrating on the first few pages of the document (link below) which refer to the aims, the structure and entitlement of the National Curriculum.


The very first statement in the proposed National Curriculum says,

“Every state-funded school must offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based and which:

  • promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and
  • prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.

All state schools are also required to make provision for a daily act of collective worship and must teach religious education to pupils at every key stage and sex education to pupils in secondary education.”


Well, there’s probably a 1500 word essay in these statements alone, but for simplicity here are a few brief comments.

1. “Every school must offer a broad-based and balanced curriculum.” We have no argument with that. However, who decides what is “broad and balanced”?

2. “Every state-funded school”.  Why can’t this be “all schools”? Michael Gove clearly wants all state-funded schools to become academies or free schools, and this whole issue is extremely divisive. We want to see equality in school governance. Why should one school be funded differently from another school?

3. “Promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development……” Can we spot what’s missing? The current Ofsted framework expects inspectors to report on the quality of education that contributes to the “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils”. Yet, according to this, the new curriculum is not concerned with the social development of pupils any longer. Whilst this statement goes on to say that the curriculum should develop the pupil and society, we would like to point out that there’s a huge difference between developing a young person’s social intelligence/skills/attributes and developing a society. Obviously the former contributes to the latter but it’s very strange (or political?) to remove the word “social” from this now well-established phrase.



4. The curriculum is there to “prepare pupils…… for opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life”. So where is the mention of the curriculum providing opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of childhood? Why do we always insist on concentrating on “later life” when we talk about a child’s education? Of course, preparing children for adult life is an integral part of education, but the emphasis should surely be on education that equips each child for living in the here and now. Are we really saying that Early Years teachers, for example, are primarily thinking about preparation for adult life? We must be mindful of this whole notion of childhood. We want our children to enjoy childhood. We want them to love learning for its own sake, and not be prematurely forced into programmes of study that are simply aimed at preparation for tests and exams.

5. The requirement for daily sessions of “collective worship” is maintained. This is quite interesting when you consider the recent 2011 National Census’s statistics on religion. In 2001, 72% of the adult population reported that they were Christian. In 2011, this had dropped significantly to 59%. Whilst this still looks as though Christianity is the main religion of the country, we also know that many of those who say they are Christian are not practising Christians at all. So in the 21st Century, is a Christian collective worship relevant or appropriate for all children? We’d certainly advocate a collective gathering for children, and we’d also advocate a time in each day for quiet contemplation and meditation on various thoughts and themes that can be considered in relation to spiritual wellbeing – such as an appreciation of life, friendship, and so on. However, this is not the same thing as collective worship. Why should any child be made to “worship” anything or anybody?

6. Religious Education is also to be maintained as a compulsory subject for all pupils to the age of 16. We’re aware that many schools, including some faith schools, are already offering an inclusive religious education which covers all faiths, and this has to be commended. It’s important that children learn about the major world religions, and it’s also important that children should be free to consider atheism, agnosticism, and humanism, in which case the existence of God or of gods can’t be a presumption built into the RE schemes of work. Needless to say, religious indoctrination has no part to play in religious education, which must be education about religion, and not education to take part in religion.



7. And – sex education! A very brief mention! Please note – secondary schools only, even though there are aspects of reproduction maintained in the KS1 and 2 curriculum. The thing is, there’s a significant number of young girls who have already started menstruating before they get to secondary schools. Without being too melodramatic about this, there’s also a significant minority of pupils who have experienced sexual abuse before they get to secondary schools as well. Aren’t they entitled to know what is going on with their bodies and recognise that what is being done to them is inappropriate before they get to the age of 11? How can children be expected to report sexual abuse if the concepts of “sex” and “sexual abuse” are not even within the Primary curriculum? Surely we’re no longer so naive as to think that in our sexualised society children below the age of 11 have no curiosity about sex and sexuality? Conscientious Primary teachers who see it as their duty to at least respond to children’s questions about sex must surely be backed up by an official document that sets out the right of schools and teachers to respond to children’s curiosity about human relationships and sexuality.

8. What of relationships? Relationships, communication, collaboration, and hopefully congeniality are all an integral part of our lives. Whether we choose to be part of a couple or a family or whether we choose to live alone is irrelevant. Even the most hermit-like character has to relate to other people, even if it’s to collect the post from the postman or walk to the shops once a week. So why don’t we look at relationships within a national curriculum? Sex education is almost meaningless if it’s taken to a mere scientific knowledge of the body. The relationships aspect of our sexuality is an exceptionally important part of our lives, but even without sexuality, all manner of relationships are vital – to adults yes, but to children also. Have you ever seen children rushing to a parent at the end of the day with their faces reflecting the pleasure of this close relationship? Have you seen how children interact with one another, and the pain of non-inclusion with a group of peers? These are important for children NOW as well as in the future.

Pedal Push and Scoot1 (20)


It’s crucial that children learn about relationships: what makes them work, and what makes them break down. In this post we’ve commented solely on the first page of the National Curriculum document. We haven’t even reached the section on aims, which will be tackled in Part Two of this series.

There’s so much to discuss and so much to get right for the sake of our future generations. As we said at the beginning, please do respond to this National Curriculum document. The last consultation (on the future of 16+ exams) led to a partial change of mind from the Secretary of State. With enough responses, he may actually listen to the voices of teachers and parents and all those who understand children’s needs in the 21st Century. Putting this another way – it’s a nonsense to leave decisions on a national curriculum to a single politician and a small clique of his ‘advisers’. Now is the time to speak up. You have less than two months in which to do it.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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1 Response to National Curriculum Consultation: Part 1

  1. johnebolt says:

    “promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society” is the language of the 1988 Act which established the National Curriculum. So this formulation is the legal duty. Social was never there – social, moral, spiritual and cultural was a subset of the early inspection framework but never a part of the National Curriculum.


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