Schools and Curriculum: June Highlight

29 June 2012

Curriculum news

First up is the new Primary School curriculum consultation. The drafts of the Programmes of Study for Maths, English and Science have been published alongside the Secretary of State’s letter to Tim Oates, chair of the Expert Panel for the National Curriculum Review. The letter includes the list of subjects that will be in the new Primary Curriculum.

Art and Design, Design and Technology, History and Music have made it in, although they will have much shorter Programmes of Study. There is no such reassurance for drama and dance.

The language used by the Secretary of State in his letter to Tim Oates focuses on content and knowledge rather than skills and understanding, although the things children should ‘be able to do’ does get one mention. The drafts are all very prescriptive and content-based, something that has been roundly criticised including by Professor Andrew Pollard, a member of the Expert Panel, and by the CLA’s Advisory Group member Patrice Baldwin in her letter to the TES. Read Patrice’s letter here and Professor Andrew Pollard’s blog here.

Also announced in the letter is the scrapping of levels and level descriptors which will be ‘removed and not replaced’. It will be up to schools to decide how to measure progress, although Key Stage 2 tests will remain. Schools will also have to publish their curriculum for the year from September. This means that cultural, and other organisations will be able to identify when and what schools are teaching and with the right resources be able to tailor their offer to each school.

The Department for Education says its aim in publishing the curriculum drafts is to start a debate on the content of the primary curriculum, and that a public consultation will follow at the end of the year. The Programmes of Study for the other subjects will also be published later this year.

The secondary curriculum is embroiled in fierce political debate as we write. Last week The Daily Mail published leaked plans to abolish the national curriculum at secondary level, and GCSEs, replacing them with two different types of exams. The jury is still out on what we can expect as Michael Gove has said this week he is not going to create a two tier exam system.

We will be responding in full to the Primary Curriculum and any emerging secondary curriculum proposals, but as ever please do drop us a line with your thoughts and any responses or statements from your organisations on the consultation.

Alternative provision

This week saw Charlie Taylor, the government’s expert advisor on behaviour reporting back on changes being made to alternative education provision, based on his report and recommendations published back in March. The thrust of the recommendations were to open up alternative education to new providers and to transfer responsibility from Local Authorities to schools for commissioning of alternative provision (AP) and placing children.

Taylor reports this diversifying of provision is well under way with an Exclusion Trial which sees schools no longer required to use PRUs ready to run in the 2012-13 academic year, a Payment by Results trial set to run 2012-13, and revised statutory guidance for commissioners of AP being written.

Our evidence base tells us that cultural learning is a very effective way of engaging and motivating children and young people, and the role of cultural organisations in delivering AP is well established, with Local Authorities commissioning organisations like Orleans House Gallery in Richmond to teach and support young people to take their GCSEs on site.

So how should we be preparing for these changes and making sure that children and young people in AP are accessing, enjoying and benefiting from cultural learning? Let us know your thoughts, and actions, on this.