STOP PRESS: National Curriculum Consultation – 24 hours left
Once more we encourage readers to submit their responses to the National Curriculum Consultation. Our own response is somewhat lengthy – the longest response is to the first question but we would like to share what we have written.
Remember, if you don’t respond to the consultation it will be seen as acceptance and therefore adherence to the new national curriculum. You don’t have to complete every question and it doesn’t have to be lengthy.
Click on the link below to take you to the consultation site.
This is important for our children and young people, their rights and their entitlement to a holistic, quality education.
Before we respond to the specific aims of the National Curriculum we would like to comment on Section 2 (The School Curriculum in England) of the consultation document. Our main focus in this response is about the generic purpose and aims of the curriculum, which is why we have responded in greater detail to this question than to others.
- The document says “every state-funded school must offer a curriculum which is broad and balanced”. We believe that this should read as “every state school” so that it’s clear that it includes academies and free schools.
- The document refers to a “broad and balanced curriculum”. The determination of what constitutes “broad and balanced” is vastly open to interpretation, and in this case, heavily weighted on knowledge acquisition. We would like to see a more clearly defined explanation as to what a “broad and balanced” curriculum is that is relevant for our children and young people and provides them with opportunities to develop key life skills, attitudes and values as well as gaining knowledge and understanding.
- The document refers to the a curriculum which “promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society” – Whilst we recognise that this phrase comes from the 1988 Education Act, as Ofsted are currently passing judgment on the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development of the child, we are concerned that this key word of “social” has been omitted from this description of a broad and balanced curriculum. Furthermore, we would suggest that this aim can’t be achieved without a clear and focused approach to a young persons’ Personal and Social Development.
- The document states that the curriculum “prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.” Whilst we agree that preparing children for adult life is an integral part of education, the emphasis should surely be on an education that equips each child for living as children too. We want children and young people to enjoy, experience and value life as a child as well as preparing them for the experiences of later life. This should be made explicit as part of an emphasis on creating life-long learners.
- The continued requirement for an act of “collective worship” seems anachronistic, especially when one considers the outcomes of the 2011 Census. In 2001, 72% of the population of England said they were Christian. This has now reduced to 59%. Is a “worship” of anything or anybody relevant in the 21st century to most children? We would certainly advocate a collective gathering; a time when young people could reflect, appreciate and share as well as spend time in quiet contemplation
- Within the requirement to teach Religious Education, and again referring to the 2011 Census, we believe that there should be clear reference to agnosticism, atheism and humanism.
- We will mention Sex Education in greater detail later within this document but the statement in this opening passage says that “all state schools are required to make provision for sex education to pupils in secondary education.” We are extremely concerned about this. Puberty starts younger and a significant minority of girls menstruate before attending secondary school. There’s also the issue of sexual abuse. If children don’t understand the concept of puberty, sex and indeed abuse until 11+, how can they know when this might be happening to them?
- The comment here refers to “sex education” rather than the established terminology of “sex and relationships education”. Relationships, communication, collaboration and congeniality are all an integral part of our lives. 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 – for children and adults alike.
- The document refers to “maintained” schools in reference to the legal requirement to follow the national curriculum. We believe that this should be altered to “all” schools to include academies and free schools. If the Secretary of State believes in his proposals for a National Curriculum, then it should be for all schools otherwise it becomes divisive and unequal, causing polarisation. The alternative is that there is no national curriculum, only guidance on what could or should be taught – applicable to all schools.
- The document says that “All schools should make provision for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), drawing on good practice”. We believe the “should” ought to be changed to “must”. This is in line with the need for all schools to regard the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the child and the duty of care to “promote the wellbeing of all pupils” as outlined in the 2006 Education Act.
- We don’t believe that you can have a “broad and balanced curriculum” that doesn’t explore the ways that individuals respond to one another, that looks at the values of society, that encourages creativity, imagination and reflection.
- We believe that the general aims of PSHE education should be an integral part of all lessons as well as having a designated curriculum area for PSHE education.
- We would also raise concern about what constitutes “good practice”. Didactic, text-book learning is not appropriate for large parts of teaching and learning in PSHE education. Active, discussion-led learning is an essential component of this area of learning and this should be explicit.
- We welcome the notion that “schools are also free to include other subjects or topics of their choice in planning and designing their own programme of education” but in relation to PSHE education are concerned that essential life skills and important knowledge might be ignored or forgotten
Aims of the National Curriculum
- The document states, “The National Curriculum provides pupils with an introduction to the core knowledge that they need to be educated citizens.” We are concerned about the emphasis on “knowledge” and precisely what “knowledge” ensures that a person is an educated citizen. This aim is not clear enough and doesn’t explain what an “educated citizen” actually looks like. Given the scrutiny and carefully considered commentary in the days of this consultation, it’s obvious that there are diverse opinions on this. So to include such an open phrase in such a document is meaningless.
- The aim continues, saying the National Curriculum “introduces pupils to the best that has been thought and said”. The term “best” is also open to interpretation. Who’s “best” are we talking about? In its current form the proposed curriculum refers to one person’s or a group of people’s “best” that is either British or western centric. There are others who might consider that other cultures and societies can also offer “the best that has been thought and said”.
- We like the phrase that the National Curriculum “helps engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement” yet the specifics outlined within the curriculum statements are somewhat limiting in assimilating this aim. We would like schools to be free to determine the content that they feel is most relevant to their children and young people.
- We are concerned that there are many issues omitted from this as a core aim for the National Curriculum. There is no reference to,
- Attitudinal development
- Development of the whole child
- We welcome the idea that the National Curriculum will not be too prescriptive and enable schools to provide teaching and learning opportunities that fall outside the limits and restrictions of an imposed curriculum.
- We reiterate once more the concern we have about the emphasis on knowledge acquisition as the most significant part of learning. It is not. It is an integral part of learning but cannot be fully assimilated without the additional development of skills and a values framework that shapes, guides and supports. The omission in acknowledging the importance of assimilation, skills, attitudes and values is significant and should be amended to reflect the true nature of learning.
- We are concerned about the “flexibility” should a school be deemed as a Category 3 or 4 school according to Ofsted. There is substantial evidence that a) schools free to offer an holistic curriculum do better b) schools in special measures or notice to improve reduce the creative and imaginative elements of the curriculum, concentrating on the cores at the detriment of the learner. The flexibility of learning should be maintained in all situations.
- There will need to be significant CPD and training for teachers both in schools and in training institutions to enable them to teach without prescription, especially when one considers the extent of that prescription over the last 25 years.