A Grand National Curriculum?

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18 July 2013 by Louisa Thomson
The Government published its response to the National Curriculum consultation and the revised programmes of study last week. At a recent ATL meeting, one of our members described the proposed new National Curriculum framework as a Grand National for kids.

Each cohort of children will line up to start the rigorous course at the age of 5. They will be told when to jump the testing fences together, regardless of the stage they have reached. They will be driven on by teacher jockeys, obliged by monitoring pressure to use more disciplinary stick than motivational carrot to keep their charges focussed on the academic track and the even bigger fence ahead.

Children who fail and fall are unlikely to catch up again. The few who clear all the hurdles by the age of 18 will be the winners, well rewarded and qualified to enter the elite enclosure. 

This analogy captures ATL’s concerns about the new National Curriculum and assessment. It is still too focussed on ‘essential knowledge’ over skills, critical thinking, concepts and attitudes, and places higher demands on pupils with its age inappropriate content.  Teachers should be trusted and allowed to use their judgment in the classroom to meet the needs of their pupils, not pushed towards a narrow style of teaching, driven by high stakes assessment.

In April, ATL co-ordinated a joint statement from 102 education experts from teachers' unions, professional and curriculum associations, academics and children's authors highlighting the concerns from many quarters about the new National Curriculum. Ultimately – the Grand National race is not one that we want children and young people to be in.

Following many criticisms, Michael Gove has made some changes to the Curriculum, but there are no significant shifts in the overall approach and he appears determined to steam roller ahead.  Disapplication of the old National Curriculum can be introduced in schools from this Autumn, and the new National Curriculum will be introduced in schools in its entirety from September 2014.

Teachers have repeatedly told us that this is completely unrealistic. We want to see innovative, local curriculum design – but Gove’s rush to push his plans through will leave teachers  with little time to develop and plan around the new National Curriculum – and take up the promised freedoms flaunted in recent speeches.  Teachers need time to understand and interpret the changes in their schools.

We're not against change, just steamrollering. Join in the debate on twitter as we say #ListenUpGove on your rash curriculum reform: www.atl.org.uk/curriculum

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