Gove sets out plans for new school curriculum to focus on facts

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Education secretary Michael Gove has announced further details of a review of what children are taught at primary and secondary school, which aims to reduce bureaucracy and 'slim down' the national curriculum.

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The Department for Education said that the review will take into account emerging conclusions of the Early Years Foundation Stage review, to ensure a smooth transition from the EYFS to Key Stage 1.

Last summer, ministers confirmed that they would not go ahead with the new primary curriculum developed by Sir Jim Rose under the previous Government, because they believed that the planned curriculum was too watered down in subjects like history and geography

A panel of experts has been appointed to review what children should be taught, oversee the content of the new curriculum and draft new ‘programmes of study’.

The group will be chaired by Tim Oates, director of Assessment Research and Development at Cambridge Assessment.

Panel members include heads from primary and secondary schools, including former primary head teacher Ruth Miskin, founder of the phonics-based literacy programme Read Write Inc.

The review will be carried out in two phases and the new curriculum will be implemented during 2013- 2014.

Phase one
•    The core subjects are English, maths and science, with statutory programmes of study drafted for Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 4, as well as P.E. 
•    The Government is proposing that all children play competitive sport and will still be taught to swim, but is also considering whether there should be more guidance for schools on how much time should be spent on outdoor activities.
•    The review will also consider whether the remaining subjects currently in the national curriculum should remain compulsory and at what key stages.

Phase two – Early 2012
•    Draft programmes of study for all other subjects which the Government decides should be part of the national curriculum and consider whether some subjects should have a programme of study that is not compulsory.

Launching the review, Mr Gove said, ‘We have sunk in international league tables and the national curriculum is substandard. Meanwhile, the pace of economic and technological change is accelerating and our children are being left behind. The previous curriculum failed to prepare us for the future. We must change course. Our review will examine the best school systems in the world and give us a world-class curriculum that will help teachers, parents and children know what children should learn at what age.’

COMMENTS FROM TEACHING UNIONS

'There is absolutely no need for Michael Gove to throw out platitudes such as restoring "academic rigour" to the national curriculum, as this is something that has never left it.
'While recognising that the curriculum is over-prescriptive, the education secretary appears to be dictating not only which subjects are the most important, but also what should be taught within them.
‘It is encouraging to see that one of the principle objectives of the review is to give teachers professional freedom over how they teach. This must not be undermined by continuing with the system of league tables and unnecessary floor targets, which can lead to "teaching to the test" and all creativity being knocked out of schools.
‘Internationally, countries with the most successful outcomes are those which trust schools to determine their own curriculum and give teachers the freedom to teach it as they see best for their pupils. This is achieved by a comprehensive good local school for every child, not a system in which schools compete with each other.
‘It is a serious error to have no classroom teachers on the review panel. These are the people who have hands-on experience in the classroom and who know what works and what doesn't. The warm words about trusting teachers are meaningless when the voice of the classroom is left out of the review.'
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers
 
'A slimmed-down curriculum would be welcome, but what’s the point of a national curriculum if the academies that the Government is so keen to promote don’t have to follow it?
'An emphasis on "traditional" subjects and facts must not restrict teachers from exploring cross-curricular issues with their pupils or from developing students’ wider skills.
'Key facts are important and form the basis of education but students need to know how to apply those facts and understand their context, too. Teaching and learning cannot always be easily compartmentalised, and I fear attempts to return to a past golden age that didn’t really exist.
'I hope that the review will take teachers’ views on board and the resulting curriculum will not be an imposed, top-down, narrow, politicians’ curriculum, but a broad and modern education curriculum.’ 
Philip Parkin, general secretary of Voice, the union for education professionals

'School leaders want a significant reduction in the depth and breadth of prescription: a curriculum that covers the basics while leaving room for creativity, culture and excitement, enabling each school to design an offer that suits their children. The mantra of freedom for schools means nothing if the curriculum continues to be dictated by politicians rather than practitioners.
'The heavy prescription of recent years has devalued the professionalism of teachers and damaged the most disadvantaged - precisely those who need the extra-curricula activities that build self-esteem and resilience.
'At present, we remain concerned that the assessment regime drives and distorts the curriculum and so may undermine the review. We need a period of stability following the review.'
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT



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