On 2 July, 2014, one of our Schools Alliance members, Hythe Bay Church of England Primary School, held an event in conjunction with our South East network (based at Canterbury Christ Church University). Entitled ‘Waving not drowning in the new primary curriculum‘, teachers were given an opportunity to discuss and share progress in planning for all subjects in the new Primary Curriculum (including assessment implications).
The Guardian claims that Michael Gove has been demoted from Education Secretary to Chief Whip because with the general election less than a year away he has become a ‘toxic liability’.
Whatever the reason, this self-appointed arbiter of ‘the best that has been thought and said’ (see the published aims of England’s new national curriculum) has been nothing if not colourful in his insults, including during periods of statutory consultation when the right to disagree with ministers and their ideas is supposedly what such exercises are about. (Remember ‘enemies of promise … bleating bogus pop psychology … Marxists hell bent on destroying our schools …’ and of course ‘The Blob’?)
Let us know what you think about Gove’s legacy for our children’s primary education, and about prospects for 2014/15 under DfE’s new/old team. For there’s no doubt that under Gove a great deal changed, and his tenure deserves proper assessment.
Read ‘The best that has been thought and said?’, Robin Alexander’s keynote at the launch of the CPR Trust.
The Cambridge Primary Review Trust (as we now are) has submitted to DfE its response to the National Curriculum proposals for England published by the UK Government in February 2013.
CPRT’s response is comprehensive: it addresses every question on the consultation form and comments on all of the subject proposals. Some of the subject comments are brief, some are longer, and they should be read in conjunction with those from the subject and primary associations, which we hope will also be released. To its responses to DfE’s specific questions CPRT has added a general commentary on the proposals, and the curriculum, as a whole.
Although CPRT gives DfE credit where it is due, and is not as dismissive of the proposals as some other organisations have been, it is far from happy with the proposals as a framework for educating the next generation of young children. Thus, the CPRT response ends with this statement:
We find the proposals in many respects educationally unsound and evidentially questionable. They are based on a flawed critique of existing arrangements and an overly selective response to international data. Their lack of serious educational rationale is confirmed by the decision to add an essentially cosmetic statement of aims after the priorities and content have been determined. They perpetuate some of the most damaging aspects of current and past arrangements, notably a curriculum which is divided not only in time but also as to quality and seriousness of purpose, especially where the arts and humanities are concerned. The proposals rightly prioritise knowledge but wrongly reduce it to unchallengeable proposition. They disregard both research evidence and expert opinion on matters such as spoken language and the teaching of reading, history and citizenship. They belittle or ignore aspects of cultural life and human development – such as drama, dance and the exploration of faith and belief – which ought to feature in any national curriculum. While claiming modernity they fail adequately to reflect the profound social and educational implications of the digital revolution … We cannot disguise our sense of the immense gulf that exists between what, in terms of the quality of consultation, evidence and vision, the Government has effected and what the Cambridge Primary Review aspired to and achieved.
First there was the ‘Expert Panel’, rising and sinking without trace save for a few disgruntled bubbles. Then, in June 2012, we had the first draft of the proposals for English, maths and science, though silence on the rest of the curriculum (which conveyed a pretty clear message about what matters politically and what does not).
Now, on 7 February 2013, we have the draft of the entire curriculum, core and non-core, secondary as well as primary. DfE invites us to submit comments by 16 April 2013. We hope readers will suspend their understandable cynicism about curriculum consultations, study the proposals and tell DfE what they think. Saying nothing will be construed as approval.
The consultation form lists the questions the DfE would like us to answer. You may feel that there are other questions to be asked. For example, why no citizenship at Key Stages 1 and 2? Are drama and dance adequately handled? Does that overused phrase ‘breadth and balance’ have any meaning in this case? Have CPR’s criticisms of the previous draft relating to aims, spoken language and a host of other matters – see this page – been addressed? The questions posed by DfE are certainly pertinent, but don’t be restricted by them.
The Cambridge Primary Review offers no other comment at this stage. We shall do so later. For now we believe that it is more important to encourage the entire professional community to get involved. We owe our children nothing less.
On the other hand, if you want to test the DfE proposals against a genuinely visionary and evidence-based approach to educational aims and the primary curriculum, read Children, their World, their Education: final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review, chapters 12, 13 and 14.
Since 11 June, when the Secretary of State’s latest national curriculum proposals were published, we’ve been going through a curious phase of what DfE calls ‘pre-consultation’. Alongside a lengthy letter from the Secretary of State, DfE published draft programmes of study for KS1/2 English, maths and science, and these have provoked widespread and often critical comment even though the formal consultation doesn’t begin until the autumn. Yet DfE has actively sought reaction to the proposals, inviting CPR to host sessions with heads, teachers and teacher trainers on 20th and 29th June, and it has told us that these ‘pre-consultations’ matter as much as any government consultation ever does (which cynics would say is not a lot). CPR is certainly taking the process seriously, and we urge you to do likewise; we understand that DfE’s deadline for comment on the proposals is early August.
Being both detailed and controversial, the programmes of study have attracted most attention. The response from Robin Alexander, CPR’s director, concentrates instead on the Secretary of State’s letter, for this is the closest we get to a government view of the national curriculum as a whole … which is not very close at all, for what the government has proposed seems to be neither truly national nor a curriculum.