Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Gove said that England’s education system was failing to keep up with other countries and that the White Paper ‘shamelessly plunders the best ideas from the highest-performing education nations’.
He told MPs, ‘We will reform our National Curriculum so it is a benchmark we can use to measure ourselves against the world’s best school systems, instead of a straitjacket which stifles the creativity of our best teachers.
'We will slim down a curriculum which has become over-loaded, over-prescriptive and over-bureaucratic by stripping out unnecessary clutter and simply specifying the core knowledge in strategic subjects which every child should know at each key stage. That will give great teachers more freedom to innovate and inspire.’
The wide-ranging White Paper includes:
- powers for teachers to improve discipline
- a new school curriculum
- the reform of school performance tables
- a pupil premium to target money at deprived children
- plans to develop a fairer and more transparent funding system.
Plans include a new reading test for all six-year-olds and for teachers to use synthetic systematic phonics as the primary method for teaching children to read.
There will also be a new national standard for primary schools.
There will also be an emphasis on raising the standard of teacher trainees who will have to face an aptitude test as part of the application process for teacher training.
Former soldiers will also be encouraged to choose teaching as a career option, with the Government sponsoring their training under the 'Troops for Teachers' programme.
Failing schools could be forced to become academies using measures in the Academies Act.
Commenting on the proposal for a reading test at six, Philip Parkin, general secretary of the teaching union Voice, said, ‘Although phonics is often the best way to teach children to read effectively, there are some children – particularly those with special needs – for whom phonics is not successful. Not all children learn to read in the same way and the good teacher needs a variety of methods in order to meet the needs of every child.
‘The Government is only "promoting" the use of phonics in schools, yet wants to test all pupils on them.
‘The proposal is for a decoding test for individual words taken out of context – not a reading test, which puts words in to sentences and tests comprehension – so this is a fairly blunt instrument, and any competent teacher would certainly have recognised by then that phonics were not working for certain individual children and would be using other approaches.
‘If the Government genuinely wants to leave teachers to teach, then it shouldn’t prescribe how they should do it.’