A curriculum – for who?
Could it be that the political parties are beginning to realise that a central prescription will only suit a certain number? Children learn in many different ways, at different rates and at different times. There was a time in the not too distant past when you could be pretty sure that if you were in a certain year group at certain term in the school year – you would be doing the same thing as many of your peers across the country! What was the reason for this? Accountability is high in England because our schools have more autonomy than most, but a centrally prescribed and dictated curriculum was only ever going to serve central requirements, not those of individual schools and, most importantly, children. Although the new primary curriculum looks dead in the water it has, along with the Alexander report, opened up the debate. As a profession it is important that we engage in dialogue around curriculum design, as it is central to all we do in schools. It is great to hear people talking about ‘new freedoms’ to deliver a more relevant and tailored curriculum that enables schools to meet their own idiosyncratic needs, but there are also some core values that I don’t think anyone would contest.
Both the Cambridge Review and the Rose Report are clear in their desire for young people to become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens who enjoy their learning, make progress and achieve. They both see these essentials as driving the curriculum rather than following it.
The Cambridge Primary Review, the first comprehensive report on primary education since Plowden in 1967 challenges a lot of the prevailing assumptions about what schools should be delivering. The Rose Report, which had a much narrower brief, also favours a less prescriptive approach, allowing schools more control over what their curriculum looks like. It’s heartening news building on what both reports have seen happening in pockets up and down the country and globally.
Politicians have seen that this ‘heart of the education process’ has suffered from years of excessive micro-management from the centre. Whatever the outcomes of the up and coming elections, and whatever happens to the Rose Report and the Alexander Review, it is good to see curriculum design having a good airing, being discussed and debated. Let’s hope that whoever has the final say remembers whose curriculum and what it’s core purpose is.