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.
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.