Friday, 21 January 2011

I see Michael Gove has announced a fundamental review of the curriculum in primary and secondary schools...

The DfE website says that "the review will be led by the Department for Education, supported by an Advisory Committee and Expert Panel made up of top teachers, academics, and business representatives.
The review will:
  • replace the current substandard curriculum with one based on the best school systems in the world and provide a world-class resource for teachers and children
  • consider what subjects should be compulsory at what age
  • consider what children should be taught in the main subjects at what age.
The new National Curriculum will begin to be taught in maintained schools from September 2013. In order to allow schools time to manage the transition to the new curriculum effectively, the new Programmes of Study for English, mathematics, science, and physical education will be introduced from 2013, with Programmes of Study for other subjects coming into force the following year. The review will also advise on how the new curriculum should be phased in for each key stage."

In his speech today Michael 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."

Whoever is advising Michael Gove about what makes for brilliant learning clearly hasn't read or understood either the latest PISA research or the new McKinsey Report. So here we go again as another group of the great and the good decide what we should teach and what children and young people should learn. After all that's where the current 'substandard' curriculum came from and that's what we have been wrestling with ever since.

I am confused because I thought we were going to see more freedom and flexibility given to schools and teachers to develop teaching and learning that meets the needs of their students. Of course, no one in their right mind wouldn't want to learn from the best international practice and use the best approaches to achieve world class outcomes but you create great physicists and mathematicians by changing the culture in our schools which makes out that these subjects are hard and that most of us simply aren't clever enough to understand physics and maths. As a physics teacher and science educator I know that we must work hard to make these subjects interesting, stimulating and engaging and most importantly we must improve the quality of teaching and learning. However, the real challenge we face isn't a curriculum challenge it's a cultural one; it isn't rocket science and we don't need to go to Finland or Korea or Shanghai to discover the truth; schools simply need to become great places for young people to study and learn and succeed and we have the damn tool kits if anyone needs help with this!

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