The new National Curriculum Review promotes "trendy" teaching techniques, contradicts Gove and warns of chaos

Francis Gilbert's picture
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Even the government’s advisers have severe doubts about whether the new National Curriculum will work for a simple reason; Gove is trying to force through the changes far too quickly. It’s interesting that the government released the Framework for the National Curriculum just before Christmas when no one was looking. Reading it, I can see why. There seems to be quite a bit of advice in it that appears to contradict much of what Michael Gove has been saying. For example, there’s a call for arts subjects to be made compulsory at Key Stage 4, an overall aim to make assessment more “formative” rather than “summative”, and a hesitancy to “rip up” the existing Key Stage structure but rather “develop” it. While there’s an emphasis on providing more “content” in the curriculum, there’s not the Gradgrind desire – expressed by Gove and his cronies – for more decontextualised “facts” to be taught; there's certainly no desire for the sort of "general knowledge tests" that many free schools are trying to institute. Even more interestingly, there's a passionate plea for more "meaningful, purposeful talk" in schools; there's even a whole chapter devoted to it. In Chapter 9: Oral Language and its Development within the National Curriculum, pg 51, the report says: "We are strongly of the view that the development of oral language should be a strong feature of any new National Curriculum." Blimey! Does this mean they feel group work discussion needs to be a core component of lessons? This sounds very dangerously child-centred. It is, of course, what all serious educationalists have been saying for years, but it's very much counter to what the government has been saying with their insistence that children should sitting down in silence, copying out facts from the board. Maybe the new National Curriculum will be even more progressive and child-centred than the last one?

Buried at the bottom of the consultation document which outlines the expert panel’s views on what should and should not change in the document is an interesting section entitled “Risks” (Chapter 10, pg 55).

It’s worth quoting these worries in full because it suggests that the expert panel have some very severe doubts about the approach taken by the politicians who’ve commissioned them.

“As explained in the introduction, we believe it is right that there should be a period of engagement/consultation on the key decisions that have the potential to radically change the National Curriculum, beyond changes to the content. This is important given the pace of the review. In Hong Kong, a review process extended over a decade.133

The major risks of moving at the speed intended in England are as follows:
1.
It may be hard to achieve public and professional acceptance of overall purposes and eventual proposals without extensive and authentic provision for public discussion. This is not just concerned with simple consensus-building but with effecting genuine change in school provision, to match the underlying aims of the National Curriculum review.”

Let’s stop there for a moment. The panel are clearly very worried that Gove is not taking the profession or the public with him in the “fly-by-night” way he’s doing the consultation. They seem to have a genuine worry that these changes to the curriculum just won’t happen on the ground.

The next paragraph is even more troubling:

“Technical aspects of the new National Curriculum may be difficult to perfect because of the time needed to integrate knowledge and expertise on subjects, teaching, learning, assessment, etc and to produce appropriate Programmes of Study and Attainment Targets. Further, it should not be assumed that the development of refined and condensed Programmes of Study for non-core subjects will require less time than for core subjects. Indeed, they may require more time due to the need to ensure that only the essence of the subject is incorporated.”
Decode this into English and you realise that they’re worried about two things 1) there won’t be time for teachers to absorb all the changes 2) some of the timings will mean there won’t be room for the new curriculum. In other words, it’s going to be a “bigger” curriculum than the one we’ve got, not the “slimmed-down” one we’ve been promised!

The next bit is even better:

“Achieving appropriate alignment of ‘control factors’ may be more difficult with many key decisions being made in parallel. Qualifications, assessment, teacher quality and supply, inspection and resourcing should all be aligned with curriculum objectives. The process of multiple, simultaneous and semi-autonomous reviews makes this challenging.”

In other words, there could be utter chaos! All these changes -- happening simultaneously could make it “challenging” (possibly a euphemism for impossible) to “align” to the new curriculum.

Gove has delayed implementation for another year, with the changes coming in in 2014, but is this enough time? Furthermore, you get the sense that the panel is very worried about the way Gove has alienated so many teachers; after all, they're the ones that are going to implement it. There's mutiny in the ranks already -- even Tory teachers I know are annoyed -- will a wholesale revision of the curriculum be "bought" by the profession? There's definitely a worry here that it won't.

Reading the document, I felt that there isn’t much difference between the current curriculum and the proposed new one, other than a bit more content being made statutory and more emphasis upon the importance of "talk", but there will be huge administrative upheaval. We just had a National Curriculum overhaul in 2008, why do we need a new one again except to flatter Gove’s ego? If his own adviser’s are expressing severe doubts, wouldn’t it be better to bed down the current curriculum and perhaps make some amendments to the exam system?
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Comments

Natacha Kennedy's picture
Thu, 12/01/2012 - 18:26

History repeats itself. When the Tories first introduced the National Curriculum under Thatcher it was longer than the National Curriculum of the Soviet Union. They didn't listen to teachers then and a couple of years later it had to be redone, that was when they started listening to teachers (a bit).

Francis Gilbert's picture
Thu, 12/01/2012 - 19:55

Yes, it does. But perhaps, in other ways, not. In 1988, as outlined in Cox on Cox by Brian Cox who wrote the first English National Curriculum, government ministers rejected his call for a cross-curricular approach to oracy as being too "trendy". Cox was building on the great work done in the National Oracy Project in the 1980s by the marvellous Harold Rosen (father of Michael) and other key educational figures. Maybe, this will sneak under the radar -- or maybe not...

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 12/01/2012 - 20:42

Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland took a decade as well. It takes that long to do sufficient proper consultations and trials to make something which will actually be good enough to stand the resistance to change if what you previously had was quite good.

The 2007/8 curriculum was done in 5 years partly because they left the core skills & content untouched and partly because what it replaced was so deeply flawed and the changes focused on addressing those problems.

More discussion here:
http://www.linkedin.com/groups/collapse-National-Curriculum-review-Thoug...

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 13/01/2012 - 18:51

Mr Gove says his policies are underpinned by evidence, yet international evidence shows that reform is best introduced slowly, steadily and with consensus. In Hong Kong, for example, education reform began in 1999 and still continues today. It began with a "mobilisation phase" which was followed by a campaign involving every school. Then came a design phase which invited suggestions about the aims of education. Consultation with major professional bodies took place. In 2002, a reform document was published which changed the focus from "teaching" to "learning". In 2005, four years before the new curriculum was to be implemented, the government organised intensive activities for teachers so that the reform would be viewed as a collaborative effort between central government, schools and professional support. At the beginning of the process the media were fully included with seminars being held for reporters.

This process has already taken over 11 years.

In Finland also, the path to improvement has been slow and steady. It has not been "as a consequence of highly visible innovations launched by a particular political leader."

And as Rebecca says, Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland took a decade.

Contrast this with Mr Gove's gung-ho approach: retrospective introduction of the EBac which has been criticised by a Government select committee, ordering a curriculum review only three years after the last one, dropping heavy hints about the shape of any curriculum, making high-profile comments about "boring" IT lessons and so on, reducing teaching to a "craft", and rubbishing the professionals who will have to make the new curriculum work (unless those professionals work in academies or free schools, of course).

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/34/45/46581016.pdf

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/34/44/46581035.pdf

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 08:47

Firstly you can't seperate teaching from learning - neither happens without the other. Secondly you'd get a lot more teachers on board if you concentrated on the sensible promotion of equitable school organisation. What we've got instead is a series of very limited attacks aimed overwhelmingly at the political right and lectures about the sort of pedagogy you think teachers want.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 10:17

Leonard James - this site is full of the "sensible promotion of equitable school organisation" citing evidence from the OECD which has found repeatedly that the best-performing school systems tend to be those which are most equitable. Oddly, you characterise these posts as "very limited attacks aimed overwhelmingly at the political right".

As it is the "political right" that is in power and pushing for "reforms" which run counter to what international research finds and what other high-performing systems are doing, then it is to be expected that the criticism will be aimed mainly at the Government. If the political left were in power and promoting the policies, my attacks would be equally vociferous.

As it is the Government and its supporters that are justifying policies by making misleading or generalised statements then it can expect to be attacked. If it were the political left in power and they were doing the same thing, I would not hold back from attacking them.

Yesterday's Times (14 Jan 2012) contained an article (behind paywall) about Blair in which he said, "One of the reasons why I developed the concept of independent, non-fee-paying schools and academies and trust schools, and so on, was to give head teachers in the school to remove those who frankly weren't up to the job." I thought it was marketed as a way of improving results.

The word "I" appears a lot in the article. "I would probably have gone further than that... I would have pushed the reform faster and further." Mr Gove has taken notice of that crass advice which goes against the slower pace of educational reform which takes place in other countries (eg Finland, Hong Kong, Scotland). And Mr Blair seemed to have forgotten, if he ever thought about it much, that being a Prime Minister doesn't mean the PM need only consider "I". S/he must also consider "we".

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 11:57

OECD data is frequently used here to promote 'progressive' pedagogy in addition to school organisation which is one of the things I was complaining about.

Saying that you'll happily attack the left when they are in power isn't good enough, her majestys opposition do have policy and it is worth our attention even if they aren't in power. Ignoring it is a bad move especially as the LSN has direct links to the left. I'd put forward the LSNs position on FSM data as an example of a poor argument that was used to attack the Conservatives and notable right wing journalists.


http://educationalopinion.blogspot.com/2012/01/inconvenient-truths-more-...

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 12:56

Leonard James: your blog criticizes LSN’s use of data as follows: “Another example of this change of heart revolves around complaints about the quality of the sources used by critics of the LSN, according to LSN member Janet Downs (8) ‘The Compare Schools information should be approached with caution. Much of it is out-of-date or incorrect’. This is a ridiculous position considering the LSNs original source (Schoolduggery) made liberal use of the Compare Schools information.”

Firstly, Schoolduggery didn’t make “liberal use of the Compare Schools information”, it used data revealed by a Freedom of Information Act. The Compare Schools tool does not include information about the number of pupils eligible for free school meals in free schools or even newly-converted academies. I can understand the first omission – free schools have not yet taken part in the annual census of schools. However, converter academies were established from schools which already existed so the data for the previous school should be included. Perhaps its omission will mean it is more difficult to compare performance before and after conversion.

Secondly, my warning about the Compare Schools database is shared by others. There are gaping holes in the data as explained above and basic information about names of head teachers etc is often out-of-date.

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6112046

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6112957

Where the Compare Schools site is particularly useful is the link to performance tables. However, even here there are anomalies. The primary performance tables 2011 have some gaps. For example, the Isle of Wight which is given an average Level 4 achievement score of 62% for the whole of the local authority area contains no individual data for IoW schools. Similarly, in Bedford (score 69%), there are only individual results for 14 out of the 84 Bedford schools.

It seems rather odd that someone should be attacked for pointing out that a database has flaws and that it should not be relied upon 100%.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 13:33

Leonard -

I see that you have taken quotes out of context in your blog which you link to rather shamelessly above, in what I imagine is an attempt to discredit what contributors to LSN have written. This type of petty minded vindictiveness says rather too much about both your inability to understand and discuss the issues and your futile attempts to portray yourself as a serious commentator on education. A clever, well-informed and witty writer would not have to stoop to this pathetic level.

What is rather sad about this, Leonard, is that despite holding Local Schools Network in low esteem, you find it a useful tool with which to promote and advertise your own undersubscribed and somewhat anonymous blog. If you want to write blogs that are as interesting and well read as, say, Warwick Mansell’s, I would undertake a significant amount of research and adopt a more dispassionate tone. If you are aiming for the biting polemicism of Christopher Hitchens, I wouldn’t bother.

Is Leonard James your real name? As you are so quick to use your blog and this site to attack people open and perhaps brave enough to use their own names and associations to defend or argue their values and principles, you might like to extend the courtesy of telling us who you are and in which school you teach and are Head of Year? You complain of ad hominem insults but is it really possible to insult someone who has opted to remain anonymous?

Cowardice is as unappealing as petty-mindedness.

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 14:09

Janet

Schoolduggery mentions using the DfE compare schools tool in note number 3 which can be found under the table containing the FSM comparison data. As I said on my blog my beef isn't with your criticism of sources it is the selective nature of that criticism.

http://schoolduggery.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/free-schools-and-disadvant...

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 14:17

Thanks for the feedback - how is the FoI request going?

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 14:21

It wasn't feedback Leonard. It was written to shame and humiliate you but you are unable to contribute little more than more evidence here of your petty vindictiveness, cowardice and useless jibes that prove or reveal nothing

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 17:01

Leonard James - You are correct: Schoolduggery used the Compare Schools tool to investigate location of schools. However, the main thrust of the article discussed the number of pupils eligible for free school meals in free schools. That information required a Freedom of Information request.

Perhaps you can explain how warning readers that the Compare Schools data was incomplete is a "ridiculous position" just because Schoolduggery with whom I have no connection used the tool. It's a bit like saying that warnings about evidence pointed out by Blogger A are "ridiculous" because they are used by Blogger B. But if Bloggers A and B are unconnected then it doesn't follow.

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 14:24

And you've got the nerve to bang on about petty minded vindictiveness!

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 19:39

Note 3 on Schoolduggery's blog refers to the last column in the table - this contains the FSM data that was used for making comparisons with the free school numbers. The way I read it Schoolduggery used the DfE compare school tool to check FSM numbers and proximity of the comparison 'non free' schools. No alternative source for these particular numbers is provided so this makes sense.

It isn't a ridiculous position to warn readers about the Compare Schools data - this is absolutely fine - the context of the warning is the problem. It is ridiculous to start questioning the reliability of sources having accepted information from someone using the same sources.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 14:31

No "Leonard" but I have got the nerve to write under my own name and identity. How do you justify sniping at people who disagree with you under the cloak of anonymity? You cowardice really says all there is to say about you.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 13:08

Leonard James - I'm not sure that Labour do have a coherent policy. It was Labour who started the academy programme which was supposed to turn round underperforming schools. Yet in 2010 some 40 secondary academies (out of about 200) failed to reach the GCSE benchmarks. That's one in five. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the schools are failing - there may be reasons why this benchmark wasn't reached - being a creamed, secondary modern might be one.

As far as Stephen Twigg is concerned - this is what The Independent wrote:

'As to what they [policies] would be should Labour be returned to power at the next election, he is coy. "It's early days yet," he says. "We don't want to end up with a policy that's right for 2012 when we've got to go to the country in 2015." '

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/stephen-twigg-i-worr...

It's difficult to comment on a party's policy if they haven't much of a clue. Labour can't come out and attack the Tories too vociferously because Mr Gove can say with some justification that he's building on Labour policies.

My advice to Mr Twigg would be follow the blogs on LSN, read the international evidence thoroughly and stop pushing for ever-rising results which lead to grade inflation and a real drop in standards.

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 14:22

I agree they don't seem to have a policy. It is a shame the LSN aren't more vocal about that.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 14:29

Why should LSN be more vocal about it? This is not your sad little blog written by you. Local Schools Network is a forum where anyone can come and express their views. If you took time to read through posts and comments, you will find rather a lot of comments from people who have been very critical of Labour's positions and their policies. This is yet another is testament to your prejudices and inability to absorb and understand what you read.

I do hope you aren't an English teacher "Leonard" otherwise you might be one of the poorly performing ones that Michael Gove wants sacked within a term. What do you teach and which school do you teach at?

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 16:44

"Why should LSN be more vocal about it?" - because it will stop people, rightly or wrongly, from associating your website with the hard left. You do see that the debating about education from the left or the right is annoying for teachers who are stuck in the middle?

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 16:48

If anyone chooses to make those associations then that reveals nothing more than their own prejudices, rather than the diversity of opinion expressed in this site. Even the campaign statements on the opening page can hardly be construed as "hard left". If you see yourself as a "teacher....stuck in the middle" then why don't you have the courage of your convictions and campaign openly?

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 15:46

You've been editing your posts again haven't you Allan. Not everyone who comments here has that privilige and there doesn't seem to be an automatic mechanism that informs others when changes have been made. As openess is clearly important to you perhaps you'd consider making it clear where you've made changes to your older comments.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 16:02

No I have not "Leonard". Once again you make outrageous assumptions to defend your inability to respond and once again you attempt to divert attention away from your own inadequate reasoning or inability to advance any point aside from sniping away like a stick of rancid rhubarb in the corner.

Trying to turn the tables around with this stupid and malicious assertion just focuses more attention on the fact you hide behind an assumed name and cower in the darkness of anonymity for no better reason than to fool yourself you are a brave exposer of fallacies when in fact you are the coward that attacks others who have the courage to defend their principles and their campaigns openly and honestly and in their own name. I would imagine you might hang in your head in shame, if only you had the self awareness.

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 16:22

A simple no would have sufficed but I am curious about posting priviliges afforded to LSN members priviliges - care to enlighten me? (preferably without the insults).

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 16:34

Leonard James - all posters on this site are technically members since posters have to register in order to be able to leave comments or write stories.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 16:42

I don't think it is my role to "enlighten" people who can't be bothered to inform themselves. I think it is much more insulting that you find it acceptable to make jibes at people here and on your "blog" under the clock of anonymity. It's cowardly and creepy, quite frankly.

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 16:37

I'm talking about the sort of members whose names are in blue, are able to post original material and get their own profile. What else do you get Janet?

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 16:48

I haven't been granted full membership so I am unable to inform myself - this is why I am asking you.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 16:49

I don' t think anyone is "granted" anything here Leonard. Please get a grip.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 17:07

Leonard James - there is a blue box at the top of the LSN page which allows anyone to add stories about education. All someone has to do to leave a story or to comment is to register on the site. That is what is so useful about LSN - it allows people who wouldn't normally have a voice the ability to start a thread.

leonard james's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 17:10

Thankyou for that Janet I had tried before and didn't hear anything which is why I thought one had to be granted membership.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 17:21

Leonard - I forgot to say that it is necessary to register and log in in order to see the blue box which allows contributors to post stories. Casual readers who don't log in would be unable to see it.

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 17:24

Out of interest who edits the stories?

Leonard James's picture
Sun, 15/01/2012 - 20:17

Allan,

"Even the campaign statements on the opening page can hardly be construed as “hard left”."

You don't think that advocating a fully comprehensive system is a left wing policy?

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 08:02

No. I don't. Furthermore, Left is not the same as Hard Left.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 17:03

Hello Leonard James and Allan,

I have nothing to do with this forum but have managed to start some stories on it. I also know quite a lot about forums in general and run one myself.

Leonard James, when you post a story on this forum it seems to take 1-2 days to appear. If you post one keep a copy and if it doesn't get published have a look and see if you can make the same point in a more professional way (strip out anything that might have caused it to be screened out) and try again, checking carefully that your post has definitely 'gone'. If you still get no joy contact the organisers. If not have another grump in a comment and we'll back you up.

Running a forum is a hassle and posts do disappear by accident. It's seems to be being run by people with little or no experience of running forums so it's best to give them the benefit of the doubt and to try the kind of procedure I suggested above as these kind of problems happen all the time and it's not fair to jump to the conclusion things are rigged without being fairly resilient first.

Allan please don't attack people. Play the ball not the man. It's just unpleasant to watch and pointless. Ta.

By the way if you think this is feisty there are many, many far worse forums. I've written up some insights into why forums are so heated and some general advice for surviving them and keeping productive discussion going without getting stressed on my blog here if you're interested.
http://cyberrhetoricbyrebeccahanson.blogspot.com/

Hope that helps,

Rebecca (who likes talking to everyone).

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 21:03

Hello Rebecca

It's impossible to play the ball when the man - in this case "Leonard James" chooses to cloak himself in anonymity whilst he snipes from the sidelines, misrepresents what people have to say or hijack conversations away so that he can attempt to smear someone or a particular school.

I do not have a problem with people having to use a made up name, particularly if they are in the teaching profession or if their livelihood were at stake if they used their real identities. However, when someone conceals their identity for no better reason than to sneer or harrumph anonymously, then it is extremely pathetic of them to cry victim when they are openly attacked. Their dishonest behaviour is actually quite disturbing, a version of the silent phone calls or the anonymous notes. You don't know who the perpetrator is but you know they are venal. Ultimately, they are cowards and as such if people express their contempt for them they really ought to be man enough to take it.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 16/01/2012 - 22:16

Allan an awful lot of people need to be anonymous. I'm open about my identity and the result has been that participants in forums have decided it's fine to make up lies about me and send them to my employers and profession associations. It's been hell and it's cost me a lot of money.

Hence I don't blame people for concealing their identities.

Completely normal people come across as being deeply unpleasant nutters on discussion forums because all body language and non-verbal cues are gone and all elephants in the room are exposed.

Leonard James's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 06:44

You can say what you like about me Allan because by doing so you are merely confirming my opinion that you'd sooner resort to name calling than address any inconvenient arguments put to you.

ChrisM's picture
Tue, 17/01/2012 - 18:16

Leonard, I think the group here was founded in response to the Free Schools Network. At least, it's got its focus and sense of purpose from that. But the individuals here weren't pro-academies when Labour did them. See here for example:

http://melissabenn.com/2009/09/16/answering-conor-ryan-on-the-academies/

I think, as others have said, the lack of focus on Labour is partly about them not having a clear policy. And partly about them not being in power. What is it people say about the left? That they have too many navel gazing internal arguments instead of focussing on what's happening.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 20/01/2012 - 11:51

Many of the posts above, including mine, have strayed from discussion about the National Curriculum Review which is a pity. The Review notes that high-performing jurisdictions make explicit the "practical and functional contribution that education makes to national development" and this is done by focussing on four "domains":

"Economic – the education of pupils is expected to contribute to their own future economic wellbeing and that of the nation or region;

Cultural – the education of pupils is expected to introduce them to the best of their cultural heritage(s), so that they can contribute to its further development;

Social – the education of pupils is expected to enable them to participate in families, communities and the life of the nation; and

Personal – the education of pupils is expected to promote the intellectual, spiritual, moral and physical development of individuals."

The Review suggested a fifth domain: environmental ‘stewardship’.

The Review noted that they had received submissions recommending a knowledge-based curriculum or one that developed learning skills. It concluded that both were necessary - one did not preclude the other. This has been discussed earlier on this site:

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2011/02/content-skills-or-both/

The Review was at pains to point out that the National Curriculum was not the whole curriculum. A curriculum in any school comprised the National Curriculum (core and foundation subjects), Basic curriculum and local curriculum. The latter should complement the National and Basic Curricula and give enough scope for autonomous decisions, professional judgement and innovation.

However, if academies and free schools are allowed to opt out of the National Curriculum, it is difficult to see how the Review's recommendations can be made mandatory.

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 08:16

Keeping to the National Curriculum subject I have only
to say that a talented teacher friend , who retired 4 years ago after 38 years in teaching primary told me " The National Curriculum raises up bad teachers but it fetters great teachers".

AND I am seriously concerned regarding the introduction of handwriting at reception level in my child's school.The child of 4 to 5 is faced straightaway with learning not just the print A,a B,b but also the separate letters as 2 ornate script.

Two years later my child can copy a simple print sentence into wonderful handwriting ( he is very artistic) HOWEVER ask him to read the printed or the hand-written sentence and he can't. [ and the teacher expects e to celebrate his beautiful transcribed handwriting - !!!]. The start of the day instructions for Year 2 are written on the white board in handwriting which my child can't read and is instantly alienated from the task.

I and my peers weren't taught handwriting until I was 8 ( 1973) .

Is this the National Curriculum ? It certainly makes me very aware that there's no incentive for researchers, commentators and policy makers to develop the perfect Nat Curr...because they'd be obsolete.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 09:30

Many countries postpone formal education until age 7. I don't know what the primary review says about handwriting - I've only got as far as page 27. I'm also looking at the international evidence which was presented to the review committee. As soon as I've read the evidence I propose to summarise the main points for each country eg age at which formal education starts; curriculum; examinations; age at graduation and so on. I hope to publish these on this site in the next few months. The summaries should act as a point of reference when English education is compared with other countries.

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 12:48

To be honest I've always been sceptical of the statement "Many countries postpone formal education until age 7" statement without further qualification.

My Danish and German friends have told me that this is so, but told me they could already read as the latter kindergarten stage involves literacy and numeracy target.
To me other countries the last years of the kindergartens are equivalent to our Reception and year 1.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 21/01/2012 - 17:04

Rosie - I think you are possibly right which is why I want to go through the evidence about educational systems in other countries. It may be that although countries postpone formal education they are nevertheless introducing reading, writing, numeracy and so on through informal methods. Perhaps the difference is not between formal and informal, but structured and unstructured. In the early 70s, the Elfrida Rathbone Society printed a small pamphlet which suggested that a structured approach, whether formal or informal, achieved better results with young children than an unstructured/unplanned approach, whether formal or informal. Unfortunately, I lost my copy during teacher training and I've been unable to find another. One day I'll go to the British Library and see if they've got one.

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