Secondary Schools Curriculum Review


I’ve been recently working on my contribution to Childnet’s response to the UK Curriculum and Qualifications Agency (QCA)’s online secondary curriculum review. The QCA is a non-departmental body sponsored by the Department for Education and Skills, and the regulatory body for public examinations and publicly funded qualifications. They maintain and develop the national curriculum and associated assessments, tests and examinations; and accredit and monitors qualifications in colleges and at work. They also regulate the public examination system (as you can see here, I’m setting the scene for how significant the curriculum review potentially is, maybe over-egging the pudding a little because I haven’t seen anyone else in edublogland pick up on this).

Although I’ve got a lot of nice things to say about the review content, I’ll start with what a pain navigating the document online was. I don’t know if other consultees found this an issue, but although the site looks nice and is easy to navigate, a pdf of the complete text would have been more welcome that the animated tour they threw in. Examples of highlighted text appear when you scroll over highlighted text, and a lot of the core framework is repeated across sections, making it tricky to identify where the differences are. So top marks to the QCA for effort and innovation, but the format meant it wasn’t easy to do the close analysis required.

You can read the response in its entirety here
. Comments focus on the reorganization of the curriculum, particularly around the themes of personalisation and inclusion, and the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) curriculum at levels 3 and 4 (11-16 year olds). 

Things I’d point up:

Personalisation – unsurprisingly, personalisation is central to the review. However, its noticeably addressed in terms of adaptive personalisation and customization – not enough attention is paid to the support of learner led decisions about tools, practices and activities – which is an opportunity missed in the context of a document which stresses supporting learners to make and justify independent evaluations.

There is a bunch of stuff in the review that you might not expect to see, although should be there, and in fact is there: the role web2 technologies can play in facilitating young peoples communication with ‘real and authentic audiences’ and global social participation.

Disappointingly, although the review stresses the potential flexibility of curriculum delivery (“…there is no requirement to deliver the programmes of study through discrete subject slots and there are no statutory regulations about how much time ought to be spent on different areas of the curriculum’) ICT is only paid lip service to within the other areas, particularly disappointing with regard to English, Citizenship, and PHSEE.

Over all the revised curriculum is very exciting (ok, I know not all of you can get excited by curriculum review but hey – you’ve read this far). It poses massive challenges to the delivery of education that teachers’ organizations have already been commenting on. The National Association for all School Leaders (NAHT – yes they blog!) commented:

“I went along to the launch of the new draft curriculum and I found that I was at times excited about the possibilities and at others, rather concerned at what we are asking schools and teachers to do.

The new approach to subjects seeks to identify what is of central importance to the subject (e.g. why should we study history) and then seeks to allow sufficient flexibility to encourage cross-curricular project work. We are urged to look at what skills we believe that a 14 year old and 19 year old should have and then view the curriculum imaginatively and holistically.

Mick Waters aimed to reassure us as well. The tried and tested curriculum will remain. “Anne Boleyn will still be beheaded; the Pennines will still be the backbone of England”. However, although certain content is to be an entitlement, the old-style programmes of study, which were, to an extent, teaching by numbers, will go. I hope they will fund and support a workforce who have been curriculum deliverers to transform into curriculum developers.”

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