Curriculum review is not necessary


The Secretary of State for Education has announced a major review of the National Curriculum in England, which will be led by the Department for Education, supported by an Advisory Committee and Expert Panel made up of top teachers, academics, and business representatives.

The review will:

  • replace the current substandard curriculum with one based on the best school systems in the world and provide a world-class resource for teachers and children.
  • consider what subjects should be compulsory at what age.
  • consider what children should be taught in the main subjects at what age.

Michael Gove said: "We have sunk in international league tables and the National Curriculum is substandard. Meanwhile the pace of economic and technological change is accelerating and our children are being left behind. The previous curriculum failed to prepare us for the future. We must change course. Our review will examine the best school systems in the world and give us a world-class curriculum that will help teachers, parents and children know what children should learn at what age."

The review will aim to make the National Curriculum less about learning skills and defining teaching methods, and more about ensuring all children have the opportunity to acquire a "core of essential knowledge", said Mr Gove.

Currently schools must teach 13 compulsory subjects to children aged 5-7, rising to 14 for pupils aged 7-14 and then dropping to eight for 14-16 year-olds.

The new National Curriculum will begin to be taught in maintained schools from September 2013. In order to allow schools time to manage the transition to the new curriculum effectively, the new Programmes of Study for English, mathematics, science, and physical education will be introduced from 2013, with Programmes of Study for other subjects coming into force the following year. The review will also advise on how the new curriculum should be phased in for each key stage.

The review could also signal the possible return of a compulsory modern foreign language at GCSE, as well ast he study of a broader range of literature.

The requirement for teenagers to take a language at GCSE was ended by the last Labour government in 2004.

However, some teachers and unions have criticised Mr Gove's decision to review the National Curriculum, saying it is unnecessary and could lead to less freedom in the classroom.

Nasuwt general secretary, Chris Keates, said the review was pointless, while NAHT general secretary, Russell Hobby, said heads wanted to see a less prescriptive national curriculum and one that covered the basics, leaving room for creativity, culture and excitement.

Meanwhile, David Pearmain, headteacher at Kenton School in Newcastle, said: “We simply don’t need another review; I don’t understand why we are having one.

“When Mr Gove became Education Secretary he said he wanted to give teachers and headteachers more freedom to decide how schools were run; and I’d hoped he was telling the truth.

“With this review, however, we could end up with a National Curriculum that is even more controlled and centralised than before.”

January 2011

School Leadership Today