Proof that Gove by-passed his own Expert Panel to push through idiotic curriculum changes

Francis Gilbert's picture
The British Educational Association has just published the major correspondence about their President's (Mary James) involvement with the National Curriculum Review. The documentation details in depth exactly what Mary James and her colleague, primary school expert, Andrew Pollard, objected to in the National Curriculum Review. We already had some information about this from Andrew Pollard's blog on The Institute of Education's website. Together with Mary James, Pollard tried to resign after having some real problems with the curriculum changes being pushed through; it was too prescriptive, it was unworkable, it was too narrow and unrealistic. But it's now come to light that Gove basically ignored quite a bit of their advice using his "henchman" Tim Oates to push through the changes he wanted. James and Pollard wrote in their letter to Gove, dated 10th October, 2011: "Consultation with subject experts in English, Maths and Science took place during the spring and early summer, leading to the production of draft programmes of study. They have now been replaced by text produced by Tim Oates and nominees of the Minister for Schools. This process has by-passed the Expert Panel as a whole and we are therefore not a position to endorse the outcomes." Quite how Gove managed to persuade these two to stay after they sent the letter is a bit of mystery because there's no indication that their views were taken into account; they were simply allowed to distance themselves from the changes to the primary curriculum. Their silence was bought but not won; well, until now...

The letter highlights seven areas of "particular concern" which James and Pollard clearly still have otherwise they wouldn't be publishing the letter. These include: the lack of curriculum breadth with little room for the Arts in the new Programmes of Study (POS); the curricular constraints placed on teachers with the changes being far too "prescriptive"; the lack of emphasis on the oral development of children; the lack of provision for helping children to make the transition between the different stages of the curriculum; the lack of detailed aims for the curriculum as a whole, indicating that the curriculum has no sound philosophical or theoretical basis; the pace with which the new curriculum has been pushed through with little regard for involving the relevant stakeholders or taking into account a diversity of views and evidence.

In other words, the letter is a devastating attack on Gove's WHOLE APPROACH!! James and Pollard put politely what I would like to say loud and clear: Gove and Gibb are idiots who know nothing about education and are now pushing through curriculum changes that have NO legitimacy, will inevitably NOT work, and will mean miserable children learning a redundant curriculum, teachers who are COMPLETELY STRIPPED OF AUTONOMY, and COMPLETE SHAMBLES all round!! God, how are these people in charge? The mind boggles! They don't listen even to their own experts. They have their own petty political agenda which does not take into account the needs of our children. Read  the letter and judge for yourself.

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Sean O'Hare's picture
Fri, 15/06/2012 - 16:46

Just looking back at what 13 years of Labour education and immigration policies did to destroy the career prospects of recent school leavers, it amazes me that you could condemn Gove's policies before they've even got started.

So arts subjects are taking a back seat to maths and the sciences. Good! If we are to have any hope of getting out of the hole Labour dug for us we desperately need a generation of well educated, entrepreneurial and industrious people to at least begin to turn around this horribly depressing economic situation. I can only hope that we still have enough maths and science teachers with real flair and in-depth knowledge of their subjects to see us through this current situation.

It is sad indeed that the majority of recent school leavers do so with no prospect of ever achieving anything. A reflection of Blair's "education, education, education". The man should be prosecuted for treason!

Francis Gilbert's picture
Fri, 15/06/2012 - 16:53

But Sean, Gove's own Expert Panel are saying they won't work! He had to by-pass them to get his changes through.

Andrew Old's picture
Fri, 15/06/2012 - 17:20

Strange sense of deja-vu here. I remember similar things being said of Blunkett whenever he showed leadership. It is the job of the minister to decide policy. It is the job of experts to advise. That's how representative democracy works.

Tafkam's picture
Fri, 15/06/2012 - 18:01

Since when did it become acceptable for the content of the National Curriculum to become a matter of policy? Government policy might shape the curriculum, certainly, but it should not dictate it.

Has anyone submitted an FOI request to see any response to the letter?

Andrew Old's picture
Fri, 15/06/2012 - 19:19

"Since when did it become acceptable for the content of the National Curriculum to become a matter of policy?"

Forever. The important thing about a curriculum is that it identifies what content is worthwhile. This is a value judgement, not a piece of technocratic engineering that can be safely left to "disinterested" experts to make on our behalf without political debate or scrutiny.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 15/06/2012 - 21:57

Tim Oates talked about the National Curriculum Review at ACME conference early last year.

His comments were shockingly ignorant. For example he straw manned the 1998 curriculum as justification for the review and completely ignored the reality that the issues he raised had been addressed during the lengthy and very substantial consultation regarding the 2007/8 curriculum which replaced the one he criticised.

When I asked him to explain his concerns about the 2007/8 maths curriculum and why this review was needed he couldn't - only managing to a criticism about the clarity of the chemistry curriculum.

At the same Q&A session I asked the Tory MP Liz Truss if there would in fact be any consultation regarding the curriculum with the ACME audience in front of her or whether policy would come from think tanks such as reform and her answer was very clear that it was the audience in front of her who were responsible for the horrendous state of education.... and so it proved to be. All consultation was shut down.

The online consultations planned through the NCETM was delayed and then never happened.
I went to an ATM consultation at 7:30am but the 'points for discussion' were so far from being relevant there could be no coherent discussion. I sat there with tears streaming down my face - the contrast between reality as it had been just a year earlier and the new totalitarian regime are so obvious and so disturbingly ignorant.

Andrew Pollard's comments are absolutely spot on. The wordings of this curriculum show the extent to which is was born without engaging with the reality of teaching .

By contrast the most recent Scottish Curriculum was 10 years in the making. It was fully understood that a new curriculum needed to be properly consulted and trailed throughout education to make it acceptable to those who would have to implement it and to give them all time to analyse and understand it.

But then that curriculum takes some understanding at it embodies education research which is new to some teachers and takes time and effort to interpret. Unlike this one which is clearly the product of a regime which is deeply arrogant and has no idea how to manage.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 10:08


The DfE summarizes the changes to the primary Maths curriculum thus:

* Pupils will be expected to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions in primary school so they can progress to more advanced topics like algebra when they go to secondary school. These four operations are not in the current primary curriculum. The proposed change is consistent with expectations in the high-performing education jurisdictions of Singapore and Hong Kong.

* By age nine, pupils should know their times tables up to 12x12. This is in line with expectations in the high-performing jurisdiction of Massachusetts. Currently pupils only need to know up to 10x10 by the end of primary school.

* By age seven, pupils should know “number bonds” up to 20. These are simple addition and subtraction facts that pupils should be able to recognise and use instantly (eg 9+9=18 or 16-7=9).

Is there really anything so outrageous or objectionable there? Anything that justifies rancourous denunciation, resignation or whatever?

As a Maths teacher, please will you explain precisely what you object to here?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 19:29

Re point 1.
Algebra can easily be taught to whole student in year 3. The idea that dividing fractions should come before algebra is bizarre.

Regarding teaching division with fractions at all at primary (and multiplication of fractions isn't much better):
The vast majority of our primary teachers are not currently equipped to teach dividing fractions properly (they would tend revert to algorithms like turn the fractions into top heavy fractions, turn the second fraction upside down, multiply the tops and multiply the bottoms and so on which are entirely unsuitable for primary students rather than visual structures like how many for one or chunking and associated process of estimation which are suitable for primary students) and we now have no process for upskilling teachers rapidly for a new curriculum as the strategy and teachers TV have been shut down (and MaST is now unfunded and was never designed to roll out a curriculum).

Re point 2.
There is an assumption with the way the curriculum is written that it is a good idea to teach students multiplication results as isolated facts. In fact it generally isn't. It's essential students first learn the structures of multiplication, that they then learn many rapid strategies for multiplication (such as to multiply by 9, multiply by 10 and then subtract one of the amount and so on) and that they then practice until they can rapidly calculate these results. Rapid tables questions or chanting tables are great for many students because they do these rapid calculations or rapid repeated addition. But if students start to learn isolated 'tables facts' too soon the results are usually counterproductive. Many results do eventually become 'know facts' and that's fine and it's okay for them to learn the more difficult ones as know facts provided they know the structures and are fluent in the variety of methods they will need as well.

Re point 3:
I'm not sure where that comes from. It's not been a coherent sequential stage in any scheme of development I've seen before. If there is some research which backs it up I'd be interested to see it? Perhaps it's just an arbitrary target designed to make students engage with the number line structure?
This is a point which might make sense if it was explained what it's context was (in terms of the visual structures to be developed) and why it's been included. But none of this is present so it's not coherent.

But there's a much greater difference between the curriculums than just the key learning targets. Where is all the stuff about students learning to apply their maths in context? Where is the expectation that they will look at problems and work out which maths they have to use? Where is any insight into the way classes of students learn in the way the curriculum is constructed.

This looks almost like a Victorian curriculum - nobody has actually thought about the need of the child to learn or the ways in which they learn and the visual structures they need to develop to think flexibly and confidently about maths. The curriculum only requires that they are taught stuff - not that they learn it. It's decades behind what other countries are doing and it's blindingly ignorant compared with what was going to be launched two years ago.

Michael Gove has gone on about our need to improve our Pisa scores. Progress in PISA is all about students being able to use and apply mathematics in unusual situations. Our curriculum development has been taking us in that direction but now we're stepping right back in time.

Helen Wall's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 20:51

"This looks almost like a Victorian curriculum "

It looks to me very like the curriculum already in place. If the only substantive additions are adding, subtracting, multipying and dividing fractions and learning times tables up to 12 X instead of up to 10 X, then that's not a huge change.

Many primaries teach times tables up to 12 already.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 22:09

Hello Helen, welcome to the site. I'm wondering what reference you're using for the curriculum that's already in place?
The current curriculum for maths, as far as I am aware and please correct me if I'm wrong, is this one:
(you can swap from the KS2 curriculum to KS1 on that page).
If you open it at the link given and then click forward one page, you'll see the current overview of the intention of the curriculum and skills students are intended to develop.

(I need to swap to another post to give a second hyperlink to the new draft curriculum or the post will not appear tonight on this site - please excuse that discontinuity).

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 22:23

Now here is the link to the new draft curriculum:
Where are those core skills?

This no longer looks like a program for what children are expected to learn which understands who children learn and classes are taught - it looks like a list of topics for teachers who teach classes who all progress at the same rate, all always attend and all turn up in a state fit to learn. It's the kind of thing which would look plausible to people who haven't spent much time trying to teach something like this and therefore haven't experienced what happens when you do in practice.

Curriculums haven't looked like this for a long time. They are now focused on the development of the child and the core flexible skills they need to acquire with core targets sitting alongside that.

Just scanning through it - and I have not had and do not have time to do a detailed analysis - I see things like column addition and subtraction appearing as being compulsary in year 2.... now that's worrying because column addition and subtraction should not be introduced before children have a confident and flexible understanding of place value and not all children will have that at age 6. In many countries children do not start formal education until they are 7 because they all develop at different rates and it is unwise to push on with abstract concepts before some of the children are ready as it sets up problems for the future. This is all well known and documented in research. At the age of 6 students should be focusing on working with concrete materials to build their experience with place value rather than abstracting their understanding of this into algorithms.

It looks like the government have moved from having key stage curriculums to having year by year curriculums. That's a big change with huge implications for schools, text books, resources, planning and so on. Why do it? What will be the infrastructure by which the rational and CPD are disseminated?

Allan Beavis's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 07:54

This whole farce also reveals the lie that, under the Gove regime, schools have been released from the shackles of incompetent, dogma-soaked meddling local authorities hell bent on ruining education and that he has given freedom to schools and teachers to manage their own curriculum and school hours.

He can reject the advice of advisers if he so chooses, but what is the point of asking them if he going to reject their wisdom in much they same way as he brushed aside the concerns of teachers and other educators during his two year reign? Is this going through the motions of paying lip service to “consultation” so that he can appear to be fair and reasonable as opposed to authoritarian and blinded by ideology?

The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Determined to rescue schools from local authority “control”, he is now micro managing them to the extent where he prescribes exactly which words primary school children will learn to spell and a rigid way of teaching that is so constraining that it does not begin to consider the needs of individual children. That Gove’s approach favours the already advantaged hardly needs mentioning. The divide and rule tactic that his political party has imposed favours those already doing well at the expense of the disadvantaged, who can more easily be punished and demonised. Punishment and failure lurks at the heart of these educational reforms which Gove likes to tell us as “radical” but are depressingly regressive. There is no creative approach to learning. Under Gove, more and more children will go through their school years bewildered and falling behind, eventually dropping off altogether. More will see their school years as wasted and they will have a point.

Our children and teenagers deserve much, much better than the dangerous experiment Michael Gove is conducting on them but if he ignores education experts with no political agenda, why should we hope that he would condescend to listen to teenagers, especially at a time when his government is offering them no hope of job opportunities when they leave school? Master Gove knows best…

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 09:21

The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Determined to rescue schools from local authority “control”, he is now micro managing them to the extent where he prescribes exactly which words primary school children will learn to spell ...

You are forgetting the fact that schools which earn autonomy and become academies are not bound by any national curriculum. This curriculum is for schools that are too feeble to run their own affairs and insist on clinging to the skirts of Nanny State.

Chester Bellucci's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 18:43

Well said, brother, simple nationalisation of the forces of production does not signify the establishment of socialism.

Nationalisation only lays the economic foundations for the transition to socialism.

Socialism cannot be realised without freedom and without equality.

Socialism is a classless society—with abundance, freedom and equality for all; a society in which there would be no state, not even a democratic workers’ state, to say nothing of a state in the monstrous form of a bureaucratic dictatorship of a privileged minority.

Tafkam's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 10:20

"You are forgetting the fact that schools which earn autonomy and become academies are not bound by any national curriculum. This curriculum is for schools that are too feeble to run their own affairs and insist on clinging to the skirts of Nanny State."

Tell that to the students at the Sir Robert Woodard academy and other academies in Ofsted categories!

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 22:58

So is the intent to create an abysmal curriculum in order to force schools to become academies so the don't have to apply it?

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 17/06/2012 - 09:08

Schools did not "earn" autonomy. They were offered short term financial "incentives" or they are forced into becoming an Academy, after which the governing board is replaced by the flag wavers of chains owned by people like Mr. Harris Carpets, who just happens to have propped up the Tories with his cash donations. Nice backhander, to be given some schools to feed off. And what else is to "earnt" through Academization? As analysis on LSN showed, maintained schools on the whole outperform Academies by any measure.

Good of you to pretty much confirm that Gove is seeking to impose his regressive, narrow and stupid curriculum to punish those schools that have resisted his social experimenting of young people. He will get what he wants - more failing schools as more children are unable to leant in the straitjacket he has forced them into. More of these rebellious schools closed down and reinvented as chain Academies which are more amenable to profit making companies.

Gove wallows in failure and punishment. This does nothing to support schoolchildren. But it does a lot to build the structures for eventual unfettered privatisation of tax payer funded schools.

andy's picture
Sun, 17/06/2012 - 21:32

So the fruits of socialism are so simple to achieve? Tell that to former and current socia;ist-communist nation states. Is the freedom you refer to genuine freedom of choice or the freedom to accept and follow what the state ordains?

Chester Bellucci's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 06:36

Every man, woman and child is entitled to live and enjoy his or her life and develop his or her potential to the maximum, without the curse of poverty and material want. The Socialist Equality Party insists that there exist social rights that are essential to life in a complex modern society and, therefore, “inalienable.”

Working people must resolve to secure these rights through the mobilization of their strength as a class, independent of and in opposition to the corporate-controlled political parties and the institutions of the capitalist state.

These rights include the right to an education: With the growing complexity of society and work comes the need for all workers to have a quality education. Yet the state of education is abysmal and getting worse.

The past four decades have seen a shocking growth of inequality.

On a world scale, there are now more than one thousand billionaires. The bailout of the financial system was accompanied by the rejection of any measures that would curb compensation for corporate executives and hedge fund managers.

The apologists for capitalism claim that inequality is not related to the economic crisis.

The continual and insatiable drive of the financial aristocracy for more and more money has bankrupted the country and fueled one speculative binge after another.

The same corporate CEOs who say they have no money to pay decent wages and who carry out massive job cuts somehow manage to pay themselves and their top executives millions or even tens of millions of pounds every year.

Immediate measures must be taken to promote social equality and a radical redistribution of wealth, including a progressive income tax that places the burden of taxation on the rich, while lowering taxes for the vast majority of the population. Taxes on the profits of all major corporations must also be sharply increased.

The expropriation of the rich is justified not only economically and politically, but also morally and legally. Balzac’s adage that behind every great fortune stands a great crime is certainly true of today’s aristocracy. The SEP advocates the investigation and prosecution of those involved in speculative activities and criminal misappropriation of social and corporate resources.

The fight for social equality includes opposition to all forms of discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, national origin and sexual orientation.

However, genuine equality does not mean the rationing out of limited education and job opportunities on the basis of race or other categories.

Such affirmative action policies benefit only a privileged few, while pitting white and minority workers and students against one another in a divisive struggle for jobs and college admission.

We insist on full equality, within the framework of a massive social investment to guarantee all social needs, including free and open admission to universities. Only such a policy, based on the unity in struggle of all sections of working people, can create the conditions for a society in which all people can enjoy economic security and realize their full potential.

andy's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 09:16

You chant chapter and verse of the doctrine and mantra but singularly fail to address the question. Classic strategy from an ingrained indoctrinated ideologue.

Tafkam's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 10:18

I have no objection to such simple summaries. But remember this is a curriculum that's supposed to be reducing prescription to allow teachers the freedom to teach. Each subject goes on for tens of pages!
Furthermore, despite no evidence that a year-by-year approach was beneficial, it seems Mr Gibb has decided that he knows better then the experts employed by his department and prescribed even that!
But all that aside, my personal objection is that my experience of almost all complaints about young people's mathematics from employers, academics and teachers is that the current system allows students to study a narrow curriculum of content and achieve well in tests, yet remain unable to apply their learning in context. This document simply further specifies the narrow path to test-success making no effort to improve actual mathematical understanding or use!

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 11:04

remember this is a curriculum that’s supposed to be reducing prescription to allow teachers the freedom to teach. Each subject goes on for tens of pages!

And yet, where the new curriculum leaves out any prescription at all - for instance, with regard to art & music - people are complaining that this effectively "downgrades" art & music. Of course, it doesn't. It merely recognizes that schools are quite capable of doing those subjects without central prescription. But judging by the reaction here, Gibb is damned when he does prescribe and damned when he doesn't.

despite no evidence that a year-by-year approach was beneficial, it seems Mr Gibb has decided that he knows better ...

That's precisely the sort of point that the debate and consultation should be concerned with. These documents are drafts, remember. DfE says on the site where they are published:

The aim of publishing the drafts at this stage is to start a debate on the content of the primary curriculum with key stakeholders, including learned societies, subject associations and teacher unions. This will inform any changes to the content in readiness for the full public consultation towards the end of this year. personal objection is that my experience of almost all complaints about young people’s mathematics from employers, academics and teachers is that the current system allows students to study a narrow curriculum of content and achieve well in tests, yet remain unable to apply their learning in context.

These complaints are really about the secondary curriculum, aren't they? The primary curriculum is heavily loaded towards applying maths in contexts: telling the time, using money etc. The few changes - using fractions, nailing down times tables and so on will help children later on in many practical ways.

The sneering, the fuss and the nit-picking is just symptomatic of a profession still in denial of its past failures - that Sean O'Hare points to at the top of this thread.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 11:49

Ricky - the Draft Programmes of Study (PoS) are for English, maths and science. You appear to think that the PoS represents a new curriculum which "leaves out any prescription" for subjects such as art and music. You then say that the DfE recognises that schools are "quite capable of doing those subjects without prescription".

That view is not supported by the following DfE press release. Although it says "there will be no other changes to the structure of the Primary Curriculum... Programmes of Study for these subejcts will follow later this year." These, the DfE says, will be "shorter" than the Draft PoS for English, Maths and Science which will allows teachers "much more freedom in these areas." This suggests that English, Maths and Science will be prescriptive and the other subjects less so - but PoS will still be published, nevertheless.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 23:16

"The sneering, the fuss and the nit-picking is just symptomatic of a profession still in denial of its past failures"

Ricky, this is not sneering and nit-picking.
It is fuss and horror caused by the appearance of disturbingly naive, unconsulted curriculum.

I'm wondering if perhaps when you look at a discussion like this you think its actually a discussion which should be taking place?
The rest of us are listening to people who are at the standard of insight into maths education where they might be, say at interview for a PGCE. Unfortunately they're MPs who are developing policy. Liz Truss actually seriously raises the question as to why MPs don't more often debate the use of calculators in class!!!! At the time of this debate At the time of this debate she clearly had no awareness of the wider topic issues of technologies in education here or the ways in which they are usually analysed by the expert committees (in particular ACME and WEF) - populated by people who have taught for years and typically lecture at Masters level in education who are there to support MPs and ministers in coming to understand issues in education. Clearly neither had Nick Gibb. I had to hear Liz Truss say it for herself to actually believe that she honestly believed all the news spin guff about those people being self interested ignorant ideologues rather the seriously intelligent, credible and dedicated professionals they are. How could she have been so naive as to have fallen for that claptrap?

I assume this curriculum must be a pet project of Gibb?
But please correct me if I'm wrong.

I'm not sneering - I find this level of ignorance completely heartbreaking and I'm trying express why that is.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 19:09

Thank you, Janet.

Even less cause for whining about "downgrading" then.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 12:01

Michael Rosen discusses the draft English PoS on his blogspot. He believes it is based on 4 false models:

1 A "false model of professional training. It's a top-down set of instructions, commanding teachers to run through a particular curriculum backed up, as we now know, by testing."

2 A "false model of how learning happens. Andrew Pollard, another member of the Expert Panel put it like this: 'it implies that children learn 'first this, then that'. Actually, people learn in a variety of different ways, and for that you need flexibility - for teachers to pick up on that and vary things accordingly.'"

3 A "false model of what is 'English' ." (It's not just "language".)

4 A "false model of language. Language, as presented here, is a set of procedures starting at one point and arriving at another, through sounds, letters, words, sentences, paragraphs while various 'tools' are injected: full stops, commas, apostrophes and the terminology of 'grammar' "

And Rosen hilariously punctures Gove's insistance that primary school pupils learn the use of the subjunctive. (Go on - admit it, you've only got a vague idea of what this is - see Rosen's blog for the DfE description and, if you manage to stay awake, consider how Year 6 teachers will explain it to their classes.)

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 16:28


Isn't it sensible to explain the use of the subjunctive in English before pupils encounter it in French or (if at WLFS) in Latin lessons?

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 17/06/2012 - 08:30

The subjunctive is little used in English although it's widely used in French, Spanish and other Romance languages. An on-line National Archives tutorial on Advanced Latin discusses the subjunctive: "it exists in English only rarely".

So it is not sensible to expect primary children "to understand how to use the subjunctive", a little used verb mood in English, just in case they go on to learn a language that uses it. In any case, Mr Gove wants primary children to learn a foreign language from age seven. Does that mean they should learn about the subjunctive in Key Stage 1?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 09:56

it is not sensible to expect primary children “to understand how to use the subjunctive”, a little used verb mood in English, just in case they go on to learn a language that uses it.

Subject silos good; cross-curriculum linking bad, eh?

Never thought I'd see you saying that.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 14:28

A DfE press release claims that the Programmes of Study (PoS) will “align England with those countries that have the highest-performing school systems.” The NC Review looked at 11 countries – 7 scored higher than UK in PISA 2009 reading tests. The review also looked at 4 jurisdictions – Victoria, Alberta, Ontario and Massachusetts (these 4 did not appear separately in PISA).

So how many of these jurisdictions were mentioned in the DfE press release? Just three: Singapore, Alberta and Massachusetts. The article also cited Hong Kong, a PISA high performer but not considered by the NC Review in its international survey.

When the DfE describes Massachusetts and Alberta as being high-performers, this is based on TIMSS 2007 scores. But these show that English primary pupils performed as well as Albertan ones in Science and better in Maths, and although Massachusetts’ primary and secondary scores were higher, England was still among the top performers for Maths and Science and beat the USA as a whole.

It seems that the international research wasn’t used to inform the PoS. Instead it was mined for nuggets which would underpin Mr Gove’s ideas about education. The DfE also gave the impression that England is performing poorly in Maths and Science when TIMSS shows England is a high-performer and PISA shows that UK is above the OECD average in Science. These statistics seem to be ignored by the DfE. (maths) (science)

This earlier thread takes a wry look at the global search for “evidence”.

Andrew Old's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 14:51

I can't believe you have the nerve to accuse anybody else of mining the international research for nuggets that would underpin their existing ideas.

Do your arguments ever consist of anything else?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 16/06/2012 - 22:32

New curriculums are always controversial. That's why it's essential they are thoroughly and properly consulted with the professional and representative bodies in education.

The consultations improve the quality of what is developed and they are also an essential component of the process of building the validity of the final curriculum.

To completely shut down or bypass the processes of consultation is complete and utter madness. I can't believe it has happened but I've watched it with my own eyes.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sun, 17/06/2012 - 12:14

But it hasn't happened, Rebecca.

I've already quoted the DfE announcement higher up in this thread. But clearly it needs quoting again:

The aim of publishing the drafts at this stage is to start a debate on the content of the primary curriculum with key stakeholders, including learned societies, subject associations and teacher unions. This will inform any changes to the content in readiness for the full public consultation towards the end of this year.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 17/06/2012 - 12:22

No doubt the results of the debate can be ignored if they oppose Government ideas. Just like the results of the free school consultation in Beccles or the advice of the National Curriculum expert panel or the findings of the Education Committee after the consultation on the EBacc. But at least Gove can say he's had a debate.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 17/06/2012 - 14:36

This government doesn't do consultation. It just forces out crap policy and sacks anyone who doesn't tell everyone that Michael Gove is wonderful.

It took years to consult the last primary curriculum and it's now been replaced with embarrassment for English education. There is a substantial community of education professionals in mathematics education any one of whom could have written a curriculum vastly more fit for purpose than this in a week on their own.

If this government is ignoring the likes of Andrew Pollard clearly the intention is to create a national curriculum so atrocious schools are forced to become academies to avoid it. Why else would they ignore someone so able and credible when he was only one of four people they appointed?

I've already been to public consultations on this curriculum Ricky and they were soul destroyingly pointless and ignorant processes. Every one at the last one I went to knew it was a sham and a total waste of time. We do know how to consult on a primary curriculum Ricky - we spent several years doing that recently. That was proper consultation - not 'consultations' to avoid Michael Gove getting deemed to be behaving illegally again.

Allan Beavis's picture
Sun, 17/06/2012 - 13:33

Amusing that Ricky Tart thinks that by barking out the propaganda from the DfE website, we should immediately believe and obey. The changes to the National Curriculum may well be designed to discourage those unfortuante enough to be Gove's lab rats but some of us older and more scpetical types, who had received the gift of a state education that encouraged is to think and question, and to appreciate the radical influence of the arts, aren't so naive.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 10:27

The Observer ran more on this story over the weekend.

Further claims include:-

■ A shadow team of advisers, whose identity has not been made "transparent", was advising Gove and bypassing the official panel in a move that raised concerns among the experts.

■ Two of the experts resigned last October over concerns about the government's "direction of travel" towards a highly prescriptive curriculum but were persuaded to stay on board.

■ The panel was upset to discover its official report was "quietly" published on the Monday before Christmas, avoiding media exposure.

Given the secret emails and the reluctance to adhere to FoI requests, it is no surprise that Gove had a hidden, shadow team of advisers (aka people who fuel his ideogoloy). Pollard said he had grown concerned that Gove was not being transparent about where he was picking up his advice on the programmes of study. He said: "The DfE hasn't made transparent the people who have contributed to these programmes of study."

The Guardian also casts doubt on the motives and veracity of Gove's "freeomd", quoting Pollard as saying

"The word freedom has been part of Michael Gove's rhetoric. But in terms of the academy, it is almost freedom to retain inequality, isn't it? In the case of the curriculum, he does talk about teachers in schools having freedom – but there is so much structure and constraint around them, I don't think the freedom is going to be very real."

I think the freedom to retain inequality pretty much sums up Gove and this government

Francis Gilbert's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 16:25

Thanks for this Allan. In fact, it was only us at LSN that noticed the report: Everyone else was on holiday. I also find it interesting that most of the press has missed the central point that the DfE's own advisors were by-passed in what is obviously a politically expedient curriculum (if it can be called that), rather than an educationally sound one.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 12:28

An interesting sidebar - this 'expert panel' everyone here seems to be so fond of also recommended making history, geography and a modern foreign language COMPULSORY at KS4!

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 12:30

When and where?

Did they recommend that in the same way "they recommended" this curriculum?

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 12:41

It would be more interesting to know who sat on the shadow team of "advisers" ie the brownosers who tell Gove what he wants to hear without a seconds thought to the calamitous effect their "guidance" is heaving on generations of young people.

As for "compulsory", since when has has it been acceptable for inequality to be "compulsory"?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 12:39

On page 26 of their report.

The report, by the way, is hilarious. They even seem to think that twaddle about sustainability and global warming should be put on a par with the loftier aims of education.

If anyone ever gets round to doing a The Thick of It style series on teachers/educationists, they could lift half their gags from here.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 13:18

The advisory panel consisted of:

* Jon Coles, Chair of the advisory committee (Director-General for Education Standards, Department for Education)
* Tim Oates (Chair of the expert panel and Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment)
* Shahed Ahmed (Head of Elmhurst Primary School, Forest Gate)
* Peter Barnes (Head of Oakgrove School, Milton Keynes)
* Dame Yasmin Bevan (Executive Principal and Head of Denbigh High School and Challney High School for Boys, Luton)
* Mike Harris (Head of Education and Skills Policy at the Institute of Directors)
* Patrick Leeson (Director of Education and Care, Ofsted)
* John D. F. Martin (Head of Castle Hill Junior School, Basingstoke)
* Bernice McCabe (Head of North London Collegiate)
* John McIntosh OBE (retired Head of the London Oratory School)
* Ruth Miskin (Founder, Read Write Inc and former Primary Head)
* Joe Prendergast (Head of Wennington Hall School, Lancaster)
* Heather Rockhold (retired Head of Lauriston Primary School, Hackney)
* Professor Nigel Thrift (Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick)
* Sir Michael Wilshaw (Head of Mossbourne Community Academy, Hackney, and Director of Education at ARK)

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 15:05

REAding between the lines of the reports it would seem that there is another layer of advisers who are unnamed i.e. not the advisory panel or the expert panel. I wonder how many of them stand to gain from the curriculum materials that must be used in the synthetic phonics 'screen' for example?

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 12:45

The loftier aims of education under the Tories being to embed inequalty and give greater access to better prospects to the advanted? Is that what the shadow team of brownosers were doing?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 12:48

Why was Tim Oates put in charge of a review like this? I know he was at QCDA but he wasn't credible when he was there either.

It's really quite difficult to describe the level of ignorance he was displaying regarding curriculums last year. I mean for heavens sake in his speech justifying this curriculum review all he did was attack a curriculum which had been replaced 3 years earlier. It's madness.

There were some serious curriculum experts at QCDA. Why were they all fired?
I assume it was because Tim Oates chose to massage Gove's ego and they were too bright to be able to? That's what was happening in every other area of education at the time.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 13:15

"Specifically we recommend that, in addition to existing arrangements, curricular
provision in the following subjects should be made statutory at Key Stage 4: geography,
history, modern foreign languages (all foundation subjects within the National
Curriculum), design and technology and ‘the arts’ (both parts of the Basic Curriculum)"
Your memory sounds almost as selective as Gove's Ricky.

One way in which engagement with history, geography and a modern foreign language could be made compulsory would be to require students to complete a contemporary studies course.

In Scotland all students study 'modern studies' which embraces history, geography, politics and more. I find it sad that my step-children get to go on visits to the Scottish parliament and that they study the nature of democracy extensively (we have really interesting conversations) while my children in England get none of this.

Why can't we have a 'Contemporary Studies' qualification for students aged 14-16 where they study their own society and compare it with the history, geography, culture, political infrastructure and language of one of their link schools? Students could engage in practical exercises in communicating in a foreign language they don't know.

Maths, English(x2), science(s), contemporary studies, a technology. Options.

But we're not allowed to look to the future, are we? We have to pretend a 1950s grammar school curriculum for all is a good idea don't we? Well we do if we value our income.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 13:24

Which of those people is an expert in maths education?

Were any of the many very credible and respected experts from QCDA involved at all or was it just Tim Oates? And if they were not involved, why was our national expert resource in this area excluded from this review?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 16:19

Ricky - this thread concerns the Expert Panel (it's in the heading). There were four members. Two of them have publicly distanced themselves from Gove's draft primary curriculum. The Expert Panel comprised:

Professor Mary James, Presidents of the British Educational Research Association (BERA)
Tim Oates (Chair of the Expert Panel)
Professor Andrew Pollard, Professor of Education at the Institute of Education
Professor Dylan William, retired director and Professor of Educational Assessment at the Institute of Education.

You gave the names of the Advisory Panel although Sir Michael Wilshaw's name is missing from the DfE list. I think there could be a conflict of interest with one of the advisory group: Ruth Miskin produces phonics teaching materials and they're on the Government's matched funding list..

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 18/06/2012 - 16:20

Fiona - the named advisory panel contained Ruth Miskin who produces phonic materials. They're on the Government approved list.


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