My response to the DfE's "Call for Evidence" (https://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/index.cfm?action=consultationDetails&consultationId=1730&external=no&menu=1)
The following is a selection of the questions from - and my replies to - the Government's consultation regarding the review of the National Curriculum. (These are my own personal viewpoints, and do not represent those of Ballard School.)
What do you think are the key strengths of the current National Curriculum?
I find this question quite hard to answer positively, to be honest.
What do you think are the key things that should be done to improve the current National Curriculum?
Place the key decisions in the hands of teachers rather than politicians. And no, that does NOT only apply to the current Coalition, but to the previous and the next Government too.
What are the key ways in which the National Curriculum can be slimmed down?
This question assumes that respondents agree that "slimming down" of the NC is desirable.
The problem lies with our obsession with assessments, data and measuring achievement rather than stimulating lifelong love of learning.
What do you consider should be the essential elements of the Programme of Study for physical education(PE)?
enjoyment of exercise in itself
ability to assess own and others' performance with a view to making improvements
Considering your response to the above, should the Programme of Study for physical education be set out on a year by year basis or as is currently, for each key stage?
Again, the strictures placed on the review process by the narrowness of the question system above place limitations on how we can respond. Neither "Year by Year" nor "Key Stages" are the right answer, in my opinion: we need to be able to work outside of these artificial frameworks.
Perhaps the notion of the "Key Stage" is something we need to revisit?
Please bear in mind in considering your responses that removing a subject from the National Curriculum would not mean that that subject was not important, or that schools should stop teaching it. Instead, it would mean that it is not necessary for the Government to specify in a statutory Programme of Study precisely what should be taught in that subject, and that decisions should instead be made at local level, by individual schools and teachers.
What is the Ebacc all about, then?
ART & DESIGN
Art and design is currently a compulsory National Curriculum subject, with a statutory Programme of Study, at Key Stages 1-3. In future, do you think art and design should continue to be a National Curriculum subject?
I believe that expressing oneself artistically is a fundamental aspect to being human. To remove it as a central plank of our curriculum smacks of philistinism.
But by the same token, I feel that students should not be forced into a narrow, prescriptive, form of artistic study.
Information and communication technology is currently a compulsory National Curriculum subject, with a statutory Programme of Study, at Key Stages 1-4. In future, do you think information and communication technology should continue to be a National Curriculum subject?
ICT skills MUST be central to pupils' future learning: much of what pupils will be facing in the future will be ICT-related. And much of it doesn't even exist yet!
ICT should in fact be added to the so-called "core subjects"...
Modern foreign languages is currently a compulsory National Curriculum subject, with a statutory Programme of Study, at Key Stage 3 only. In future, do you think modern foreign languages should continue to be a National Curriculum subject?
Yes - BUT, crucially, NOT via a "one-size-fits-all" model (and DEFINITELY not with the current GCSE as the sole outcome).
Music is currently a compulsory National Curriculum subject, with a statutory Programme of Study, at Key Stages 1-3. In future, do you think music should continue to be a National Curriculum subject?
Same as for Art, really! It's a part of being a person...but allow pupil choice, from a certain point on...
SECTION H: HOW CHILDREN LEARN (Q29)
The remit for the review makes clear that the National Curriculum should express clearly the progression that pupils should make in each subject, and that this progression should be informed by the best available evidence on how children learn. For example, at what age should particular concepts first be introduced, how should these be sequenced in the most appropriate age-related order to develop deep learning and how should this evidence be best reflected in Programmes of Study for particular subjects?
Our aim in seeking this information is to help inform the sequencing of knowledge at different ages with the National Curriculum Programmes of Study. We would welcome all evidence relevant to this issue, whether broadly based or focused on particular knowledge and concepts within a given subject (eg understanding ratio and proportion within mathematics).
This section is about your views on the best available evidence on how children acquire particular knowledge, and understanding of concepts and principles, to inform the development of the National Curriculum. Your views may be based on particular research, expertise or from your own experiences of teaching.
Have you considered getting some thoughts from someone like Sir Ken Robinson on this?
There is SO MUCH to say in response to this that I think I am going to have to come back to it on its own, in a future post.
SECTION I: TRANSITION (Q30- Q33)
The review will be taking into account the emerging conclusions of the review of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) by Dame Clare Tickell to ensure a smooth transition from the EYFS to Key Stage 1. The review will also take into account the need for the National Curriculum to be embodied readily into GCSE subject criteria and support the effective operation of public examinations at the end of compulsory schooling. The development of new GCSE criteria themselves is outside the scope of this review.
This section is about your views on how to best take into account the key transition periods in schooling in developing the new National Curriculum.
What are the most important factors to consider in developing the National Curriculum for Key Stage 4 to ensure the effective operation of GCSE and other public examinations?
Can we assume that the GCSE itself will be subject to review in the same way as the current National Curriculum, as GCSEs are themselves unfit for purpose, and at the root of many of the system's problems?
SECTION J: IMPLEMENTATION (Q34 - Q35)
This section is about what arrangements need to be put in place to support the successful implementation of the new National Curriculum in schools. For example, this may relate to teacher training, inspection, statutory assessment, support and guidance for schools, etc.
Hmmm: teacher-training by teachers, alongside all their other duties and responsibilities... Can we assume (a) improved pay and conditions, (b) reduced teaching workloads commensurate with the increase in overall working time, (c) training for those taking on the crucial job of ensuring that future generations of the UK's young people are taught by teachers who know what they are doing!
Assessment: of course access to attainment data, accountability and so on are important, and all that - but as the man said, "you don't fatten a pig by weighing it"...
As explained in Section C, the Government's intention is that the implementation of the new National Curriculum should be phased in, with new Programmes of Study for English, mathematics, science and physical education published in autumn 2012 for first teaching in schools from September 2013, and those for other subjects published in autumn 2013 for first teaching in schools from 2014. The remit for the review includes consideration of what further phasing may be necessary (for example whether the new Programmes of Study should be introduced in all key stages/year groups simultaneously, or over a period of time).
Let's wait and see what we all have to say, first, eh? Maybe we will provide so much evidence that you will have to readjust your timeframe entirely...
Finally, please let us have your views on responding to this Call for Evidence (eg the number and type of questions, was it easy to find, understand, complete etc.)
As previously stated: too rigid to allow for real breadth of contribution. By definition, the ideological starting-point of the questioning also places limitations on the outcome.
Not to mention the make-up of the Committee which will be "reviewing" these responses to the "Call for Evidence". Is there no place for ordinary teachers? Who chose the panel?
I await the outcome of the consultation process with real interest...
...although I do believe that of itself, it will have very little effect upon how I do my job - because I will continue to do that to the best of my ability, by daily assessing how I improve the learning of my pupils, and trying to come up with fresh ways of doing so, in collaboration with members of my own Department, other colleagues in my school and other local schools, and via my global PLN.
I will, however, do my best to keep an open mind. All I would ask of you, Mr Gove and the members of the Committee, is to do the same. Even if that means admitting that the results of the consultation process require you to eat your words...