The consultation didn’t finish until 16 April but schools minister talks as if the National Curriculum is already set in stone

Janet Downs's picture
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Will there be any additional funding for continuing professional development and classroom resources to support implementing the new National Curriculum? That was the question asked by Tory MP, Craig Whittaker yesterday.

But the consultation about the proposed curriculum only finished last week. Surely there hasn’t been sufficient time to read and analyse all the submissions?

That didn’t stop schools minister, Elizabeth Truss, from anticipating the question. Her answer dated the day before made it clear that the Department for Education is already “working with subject experts, publishers, educational suppliers and others to identify what support for schools is already in place and any gaps that need to be filled.”

But isn’t it a bit early to be asking publishers to provide material to support a curriculum which hasn’t yet been finalised?

Truss highlighted resources already available. The matched funding scheme for the purchase of phonics materials from the DfE’s approved list would be extended until October. This is perhaps because take-up of the matched funding has been slow. It was so sluggish in January last year despite all the hype that ex-schools minister, Nick Gibb, “named and shamed” local authorities where few schools had taken up the offer. This rather contradicts Truss’s assertion that “The Government believes that schools are best placed to decide which teaching resources and professional development meet their needs…”

The schools minister recommended videos recently published by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Maths (NCETM). And these are excellent videos* (although I had to look up what a numicon was). One of the Progression in Multiplication videos, for example, shows the use of the grid method as an interim step. But Truss says the grid method is a “tortuous technique”. She made it clear in a speech at the North of England Education conference:

“… the new National Curriculum will specify that children should learn efficient calculation methods like columnar addition and subtraction and short and long multiplication; and KS2 tests will be designed to reward pupils whose working shows they have used the efficient methods.”

Truss’s statements raise anomalies. First, she’s talking about the proposed curriculum as if it were already decided. Second, she says schools are free to decide teaching methods but then dictates what methods should not be used.

It appears, then, that the consultation responses will not change the proposed curriculum. And teachers are not free to use their professional judgement to decide teaching methods. Truss and Gove make it quite clear what methods schools should adopt.

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*Registration needed to view NCETM resources.

 
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