The New National Curriculum – 11/07/11
FEdS hosted a seminar with newly-knighted Sir David Bell, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education, on 15th June at the Microsoft Auditorium in London.
More than 40 leading business and education representatives attended the expert background briefing on the review of the National Curriculum. David Bell gave FEdS members and guests an insight into the government’s political philosophy and how it will apply to this ‘once-in-a-generation’ opportunity to change the curriculum.
The review’s remit states that the National Curriculum should provide a core of essential knowledge in key subjects, embody rigour and high standards, create coherence and allow teachers to work beyond the core to develop pupils’ potential.
The basic core content, as might be expected, includes subjects such as English, maths, and science, with much debate about what else should be included. It is linked with the concept of an English Baccalaureate, where pupils learn a range of subjects, usually a combination of GCSEs or iGCSEs, across a core of academic subjects – English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language.
Sir David confirmed government policy of giving more freedom to schools to decide what is taught, with a proportion of content being decided by schools themselves. Academies and Free Schools will remain exempt.
He said that while Academies have always been able to opt out of the NC, most have tracked it. This is likely to remain the case in future, particularly if the review achieves the government’s ambitions in terms of rigour, international alignment and a high degree of consensus. If a school chooses not to track it, parents can decide if that is appropriate for their children.
This government does not believe in the activism of the previous administration and is changing the culture from one of ‘requirement’ to one of ‘nudge’.
Education Secretary Michael Gove is determined that the new National Curriculum should focus only on core content, and measure up to the best in the world. Teachers will decide how content should be taught, and necessary skills and attributes developed.
After Sir David’s presentation, Rachael Campey, Chief Executive of FEdS, chaired a really lively question and answer session. Rachael said, “The beauty of seminars like these is that they not only increase knowledge and understanding, they give FEdS members a fantastic opportunity to question the people shaping or influencing policy. Sir David was very generous with his time – which was a good job as everybody seemed to have a question for him! It shows just how much interest there is in the National Curriculum review, and how important it is.”
The Department for Education will continue consultations over the next few months, including events on pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and discussions with primary teachers on implementation of a revised National Curriculum. Later in the summer there will be opportunities for stakeholders to comment on emerging drafts of the new Programmes of Study.
FEdS has produced a report on the seminar which is available to FEdS members on its website www.feds.co.uk. If you would like a copy please contact Coral Rayfield. Rachael and her team are working on a programme of events for the autumn and details will be posted on the FEdS website during the summer.