Teach same curriculum at same time, says Dame Sally

Janet Downs's picture
 8
Dame Sally Coates, ex-head of Burlington Danes Academy and now director of United Learning’s southern academies, thinks teachers in England should be told what to teach and when to teach it.

“The government should gather a panel of experts to design a model curriculum. This content would then be laid out in a logical, sequential format: year by year, term by term.’

“From the age of four to 14 all children in England would study the same content and their success in grasping this content would be tracked. It would set out the exact content that students would cover in each subject and the exact order in which they would cover it.”
There is no evidence that all children studying the same curriculum in the same order improves educational standards. The opposite is true.

The OECD found school systems which allowed teachers autonomy to choose what and how to teach tended to perform better in PISA tests than those where curriculum was imposed top down. Andreas Schleicher, OECD guru and once described by ex-Education Secretary Michael Gove as the most important man in English education, said high performing systems had moved from ‘professional or administrative forms of accountability and control’ to ‘professional forms of work organisations’. Standardization and compliance belonged in the past.

Dame Sally’s suggestion raises the question about what curriculum would be mandated. Would it be the National Curriculum made even more detailed? But one of the supposed benefits of academy status was being able to opt-out of the National Curriculum. Dame Sally wants that freedom curtailed at a time when freedom from a mandated, detailed curriculum* should be available to all schools.

Would the compulsory curriculum be Core Curriculum UK, the curriculum used in academies run by Future, the chain set up by John Nash before he was hastily elevated to the peerage in order to become schools minister in the Lords? If so, then all year 6 pupils all at the same time would learn that Bolivia is the largest country in South America and its national language is Portuguese.

Or would it be one of the curricula mandated by academy chains for use in all their academies? Or one devised and published by an education publisher?

But the curriculum will be devised by experts, we are told. But those ‘experts’ could be hand-picked to devise the curriculum most favoured by the Government of the day. And if they didn’t deliver, they could just be smeared.

The suggestion to impose a heavily prescriptive curriculum on to schools in England is a retrograde step. It denies teachers the professionalism to decide what their pupils need to learn and when. It stifles innovation and inspired teaching. It removes the need for trained teachers – the scripted curriculum could be ‘delivered’ by untrained (and cheaper) personnel.

And it would increase the divide between state schools and private ones – the latter, of course, being free from such central prescription.

NOTE *I'm not suggesting a free for all. There should be a loose framework for a broad, balanced curriculum up to 16.

UPDATE 16 September 2015 0.830. Sharp eyed readers will have noticed the information re Bolivia was incorrect. This was not my error. It appears on page 122 of ‘What Your Year 6 Child Needs to know‘ which is part of the UK Core Knowledge Curriculum published by Civitas. It’s promoted as what a ‘good’ curriculum looks like and has been mentioned in dispatches by school minsters.
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Comments

janee's picture
Mon, 14/09/2015 - 17:06

Having a national curriculum and uniform timetable and lessons was more or less what France used to have before they eased up on it because it was unworkable and unsuccessful.

Bobby's picture
Mon, 14/09/2015 - 17:23

Is this Big Brother wanting to know what is being done to whom and when?

FJM's picture
Tue, 15/09/2015 - 21:22

If they were to learn that 'Bolivia is the largest country in South America and its language is Portuguese', I would be very worried, whether they did it all at exactly the same time or at any time from year 1 to year 13. (I think you mean Brazil.)
More importantly, this suggestion (not the one about Bolivia's main language) is so stupid, that I suspect that it has been 'taken out of context', but nothing would surprise me these days, so it may be an accurate reflection of what she thinks.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 16/09/2015 - 06:50

FJM - I didn't make up the incorrect fact about Bolivia. It appears on page 122 of 'What Your Year 6 Child Needs to know' which is part of the UK Core Knowledge Curriculum published by Civitas. It's promoted as what a 'good' curriculum looks like and has been mentioned in dispatches by school minsters.




FJM's picture
Tue, 15/09/2015 - 21:22

In this case, Big Sister. ;)

FJM's picture
Tue, 15/09/2015 - 21:23

I think the belief that every child in France studied every topic simultaneously is apocryphal.

FJM's picture
Wed, 16/09/2015 - 06:51

I'll have to have a look at that. I was surprised, as you are usually very meticulous.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 16/09/2015 - 07:29

FJM - I think it might be sensible if I added an update to the original article to avoid people thinking I'm the one who thinks Bolivia is the largest country in South America and its inhabitants speak Portuguese.

You'll be able to check the incorrect 'fact' by using Amazon's 'Look Inside' facility and searching for Bolivia.

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