Friday, 21 January 2011

Whose curriculum is it anyway?

I must admit having read Michael Gove's speech I am confused...

"The principal goal of education... should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things... men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers."

There seems to me to be a huge contradiction between the freedom and empowerment for headteachers and schools and the command and control mentality of the new curriculum which will be imposed on schools. Michael Gove appears to be obsessed with facts but argues powerfully that his radical approach would slim down the curriculum from an 'over-prescriptive' approach leaving the schools free to decide how to impart the required body of knowledge. His new curriculum would contain English, mathematics, science, PE, religious education, history, geography, modern foreign language, music, art and citizenship. If you read Dan Pink's fantastic book 'A Whole New Mind' he argues much more powerfully that we are entering not a knowledge age but a conceptual age where Asia, abundance and automation are radically changing the learning landscape. In this new world the key skills will be team work, design, storytelling, empathy, play and meaning. Ken Robinson argues in his work and in his amazing talks that we must get away from a learning world and nurture talent, creativity and imagination and share and network the things that work and stop doing the things that don't! 

Michael Gove argues that an academic education is the best preparation for the opportunities created by the knowledge based industries of the future and would argue that we must say what we would teach our children and young people. If you read the new McKinsey Report, analyse the new PISA data and listen to people like Ken Robinson it is increasingly obvious that, while we have achieved great things over the last ten years, we are not doing enough to ignite and inspire our children to become brilliant little learners. However, the challenge isn't what we put in the curriculum but how we create passionate and compassionate learning places which inspire young people to learn. Those of us who have seen it happen and know how to do it need to work together to share ideas and strategies and to continue to think team and to build co-operative, collaborative approaches that inspire young people to really understand what they are capable of, to dispel the nonsense about genius and to help them reach their extraordinary potential. 

No one can doubt that we have transformed the learning landscape through the powerful use of a collaborative school improvement approach and through using brilliant National Strategies programmes like Every Child a Reader, Every Child Counts and the Intensifying Support Programme. But most importantly what we created was a culture of excellence built on passion, persistence, self-belief and determined, focused and deliberate practice and hard work.  Throughout my life people have told me that things are impossible and more recently told me that we can't get every child to read by the time they are seven or eight; that we can't get every child can’t be a brilliant little learner by the time they leave primary school; that we can't get every young person the equivalent of 5 good GCSEs including English and maths by the time they are sixteen. I simply don't accept any of this and believe that every school can be a great school and that we can create great teams doing the extraordinary with the current people. Success doesn't come in can'ts it comes in cans. We simply need to change the culture and get people to believe; to believe in themselves and to believe in our children and young people and our colleagues. The next person who tells you it's impossible with these children, these young people, these families or these colleagues, tell them that if you believe anything is possible and that achieving the impossible is nothing!
Keep the faith.

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