The personal learning network for educators
Amid a fanfare of musical instruments, (incidentally taught in school) Mr Gove has announced a marvellous new review of the curriculum. Clearly the curriculum must be so broken that it needs the "expertise" of Mr Gove to fix it. I guess it is probably teachers, or the Labour party or the quangos who are to blame for the curriculum not doing what it should.
Most accepting citizens believe that the Government know what they are doing. But herein lies the problem.
Mr Gove has the same educational experience that most of us have, ie. we've all been to school but this doesn't qualify you to have an opinion which dictates educational practice for millions of children.
Mr Gove will tell you that standards need to rise so that we can compete with the rest of the world. Every secretary of state has come out with this tripe but the fact of the matter is that the best schools in the world are in this country. Teachers travel from around the world to see how we do things. I'm sorry if that doesn't fit the rhetoric Mr Gove but those are the facts.
Mr Gove will tell you that behaviour in schools needs addressing. Great soundbyte, but again, the facts are that behaviour is deemed to be inadequate by OFSTED in less than 1% of English schools. Is it really the huge problem Mr Gove or is this an attempt to make you look busy?
These trite political statements designed to impress the public mask however a far more sinister modus operandii.
It is no secret that successive Governments have used education as a tool to deliver social policy and to engineer the population of the future. To create a population who will be more like them and their values as the Government of the day and here neither Labour or Conservative are spared excuse.
The all new life saving national curriculum which is probably the fourth or fifth curricular football to be kicked our way in 23 years of teaching is ready for delivery. Mr Gove has been to visit lots of people especially the discredited knowledge of facts approach in the states and has seen the things that he likes and wants here.
A bit like me visiting a hardware shop, looking at a hammer and deciding that this might be useful for brain surgery!!
Anyway Mr Gove's pearls of wisdom ar as follows:
•the National Curriculum should "not absorb the overwhelming majority of teaching time" (although when I asked him to be more specific Mr Gove said it would be wrong to "prescribe" any set percentage of time);
So how much time should teachers spend on this, or are we to guess and then be reprimanded for not getting it right?
•it will focus on factual content and essential knowledge not (as in the past, according to Mr Gove) on skills development and "the promotion of generic dispositions");
So we're going to learn the facts that the Government want us to learn, and whether the children leave school without the disposition to be useful and healthy members of our community doesn't matter! (social engineering in its clearest sense).
•it will not tell teachers how to teach;
Gee thanks! So the four years of training wasn't for nothing!
"We don't care how you teach our social policy, just do it!"
•Academies will retain the freedom to disapply from the national curriculum;
So this new National Curriculum is so great that we want our flagship schools to be able to disapply it!! The logical extension of this is that if all schools become academies we could have no national curriculum, so why write it?
•English, maths,science and PE will remain compulsory subjects at all key stages from age 5 to 16;
Where has ICT gone. One day it is a core subject now it isn't. Is this because ICT costs a lot and we can't really fund it. If Mr Gove wants us to compete in a world market of any sort in the next 50 years a keen understanding of technology and how it can benefit, is essential and certainly more use than Latin!
•Religious Education will remain compulsory but is not part of this review;
Good. I think each Governing Body need to decide how they are going to teach RE bearing in mind that all religions should be taught. Children given an understanding of all major world religions can make an informed and personal decision based on their own personal preference. The views of humanist and athiests are to teach children nothing and presume they'll somehow catch a faith if they want it. Unlikely and plays into the hands of atheists.
•the review will decide which of the following subjects should continue to be compulsory: art & design, citizenship, design & technology, geography, history, ICT, modern foreign languages, music;
So again the previous 2 Governments have told us it is critical to teach these subjects and have legislated to make sure we do. Now we are told that we are not sure about how important these subjects are. For what it's worth any balanced curriculum offer should contain these subjects but a non educator will probably make an non educational decision on behalf of the educators and educated!
•the review will consider whether content should be set out on a year by year basis rather than, at present, by Key Stage;
So the previous comment about letting teachers decide how they teach the content is not a promise! It should be up to teaching staff to decide how they teach the curricular content.
•the PE curriculum "will set out a clearer expectation that all pupils should play competitive sport" and that all will learn to swim;
No change here then but we'll make it look like we're telling those trendy lefty teachers that the kids need competitive sport. Most schools play competitive sport!!!
The bottom line with this review is that there isn't really a lot of change. The only real difference is the capacity for this Government as with previous Governments, to weave their own ideology throughout the taught curriculum. If you can create Conservative thinkers out of 11 year olds you might have a better chance of being re-elected when they reach voting age.
It's time to stop playing politics with education and leave teachers to decide what to teach and how to teach it. We are the consistents in the system not politicians!