Removing the curriculum straightjacket ... or tightening it?

Henry Stewart's picture
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Michael Gove claims that his reforms will remove the curriculum straightjacket. Yet at the same time he makes clear that secondary schools will now be judged not on 5 GCSEs including Maths and English (as at present) but on 5 GCSEs including Maths, English, Science, a humanities subject and a language. To be seen as performing well, schools will have to make sure all students take this range - whether it suits the student or not.

Given that students generally take 2 English GCSEs and 2 or 3 Science GCSEs, this adds up to 7 to 8 of their GCSEs. It doesn't leave a lot of choice: some students take 8 GCSEs, and most between 8 or 10. What this means is that GCSE choices will become more prescribed (or straightjacketed) than ever before.

This will suit some students, particularly the more academic. Currently our school requires all students to do English, Maths and Science. But then there is a wide choice. The artistic students can choose to do Drama, Art, Textiles, Graphics or Photography, or a Diploma in Performing Arts. The more practical students can do Sports, ICT, Resistant Materials or a Diploma in Construction.

Surely the point of education is to reach each student as an individual and spark a love of learning in whichever subjects best suits them. Gove's proposal is a one-size-fits-all approach, aiming to fit all students into one narrow model of success. He seems to be saying that this approach worked for him and his colleagues and so everybody should follow the same path.

It will be a difficult choice for Governing Bodies: Do we continue to try to create a varied curriculum that meets the needs of our students, and also often prepares them well for the career they wish to follow. Or do we protect our league table position and force them into the Gove straightjacket?
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