Monday, May 17, 2010

National Curriculum

Our new government is proposing to give schools 'more freedom over the curriculum', but what will this mean?

The National Curriculum was introduced in 1989 in order to make sure schools across England taught roughly the same things and could be compared using standard tests (SATS) and their results put into league tables.

The idea was loudly denounced in staffrooms up and down the Country. I can remember pretending to listen as one teacher after another ranted that they should decide what to teach; that it was yet more government interference, central control which undermined their authority; showed a lack of trust in them; Mrs Thatcher should be hung...etc etc. I just nodded wisely and thought it all sounded great.

The bottom line of course, which you cannot say in the staffroom; is that although some teachers would use their vast knowledge and individual expertise to come up with brilliant original lessons, which would thrill and educate every pupil; most would not. I was more than happy to be told what to teach and when to teach it. It just gave me one less thing to worry about.

As long as the bottom kids can be made exempt (which they can) and be taught something that will be of use to them (ie how to read, write and get up in the morning) then I've got no problem whatsoever with a National Curriculum. We will probably never all agree on its exact content, but it has to be better then no guidelines at all.

If you think differently then feel free to comment...


Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

Anyone who can remember the antics of the Inner London Education Authority will appreciate the need for a national curriculum.

Sadly, though, those deciding the contents of the national curriculum seem to be of the same kidney.

English Pensioner said...

Surely before we had the National curriculum pupils of similar ability were taught the same things only it was called the exam syllabus. So when I took my GCE "O" levels all those years ago surely all the pupils at other schools who were proposing to sit the same subjects were following the same course of study. What exactly is the difference between this and a curriculum except more paper?

NorthernTeacher said...

I spent many years teaching English as a foreign language for that horrendous institution, the British Council.

I remember my first observation well. I used all my own materials and in the feedback session afterwards, my line manager said he hadn't liked the lesson but he didn't want to write that down so I could arrange another observation.

The next time, I followed the prescribed course book and teacher's book verbatim. He didn't like that either saying it was too restrictive!

Teachers can't win. Whatever area of education you work in, there's always someone with just that little bit of power who decides he knows best!

Dack said...

One post in favour of 'free' schools and one in favour of a nat curr?

Miss Brodie said...

I must admit I can't imagine an educational system without a common curriculum ... but I may just be brainwashed.

Ben said...

As English Pensioner said, we got along without one for a very long time. Parents wanted their children to get O and A Levels, so schools followed the O and A Level syllabuses. There were several exam boards, so there were several syllabuses.

Interestingly there was competition between the exam boards. Nuffield was seen as slightly easier, JMB as harder. So JMB had more prestige, and many schools, including my 6th form, chose it on that basis, just as I and my parents chose that school for it's high standards. There was no race to the bottom, which is the reason given for centralising examinations. Instead we have a centrally-imposed race to the bottom.

As long as parents are able to choose their school, schools should be able to choose their curriculum.

It's only the state domination of the education sector which makes the state control of the curriculum seem necessary.

On the other hand, with Frank Chalk, I think model curriculums and model lesson plans are a great idea. The exam boards should produce them.

phatboy said...

I'm not a teacher, but I remember my teachers well (both from when I was at school and having seen and met up with them on many occasions since).

Some teachers were great, I had one English teacher who was, to be blunt, amazing. I also had others who frankly didn't understand their own subjects, I'm thinking now of my A-Level law teacher (I am now a lawyer no thanks to him).

Doing away with a curriculum and allowing teachers to teach what they see fit would be worrying. I simply don't trust that enough of the teachers from my old schools and colleges have the ability to devise their own curriculums... franky enough of them failed miserably to cram the national curriculum into the allotted time and in one class we all had to attend for extra lessons to complete the syllabus before the exams!! That teacher was my head of year who for some reason taught history, computing, business and geography. Maybe it was no wonder he simply couldn't keep up.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Department for Education will follow the Scottish model - a Curriculum for Excellence - which will be rolling out soon despite vocal protests from teaching unions. No 'Es & Os' (experiences and outcomes) set yet for Senior Phase and all achievement to be recorded with very little guidance provided on how to record it. Happy days!