The Framework for the National Curriculum
As you may already have read, the report from the Expert Panel was published a week before Christmas. About as indigestible as the worst Christmas pudding, the report deals only with broad issues of structure. As always the devil is in the detail, but there are some interesting points raised. None of these will be unfamiliar but at least they are being discussed and subjected to evidential scrutiny rather than allowing ministerial whim to reign supreme.
I found the whole document unnecessarily heavy-going, littered with bizarre phrases that teachers never use. I recommend that you don’t waste your time reading it. Instead read my summary of the 10 key points.
1. Most existing curriculum elements should be retained in some statutory form which basically is code for ‘subjects rule OK’.
2. There is much debate about KS4. So, will it now be statutory, yes or no? Well, yes, but…It is recommended that history should be studied in some form post 14 but not necessarily to GCSE level. There will be no statutory Programme of Study for history. If you’re wondering if this is good or bad news, I don’t blame you. Good to have some history but how much and what content will be up to schools to decide. This sounds like an awful cop out. If not GCSE, then what? What status will this subject have in the eyes of students, parents and headteachers who have lived their lives feeding a series of league tables? The experts acknowledge that there might be an issue with student motivation. Not ‘arf!
3. The decision about truncating KS3 to just two years, as is already the case in many schools, is fudged. The case it put for a shorter KS3, but the experts are3 aware that this poses challenges and is opening up the issue for debate which we must welcome.
4. At primary level there is little comment on history other than to recommended that Key Stage 2 be divided into lower and upper. The implication is that Y5 and 6 will receive more subject specialist teaching.
5. The mess that is history assessment has been tackled head-on. It is recommended that the single Attainment Target be abolished. OK, great, but what replaces them? Here you have to think hard about what they intend. Grab a wet towel to place over your head. I’ll quote at length from page 9:
“POS should be stated as discursive statements of purpose, anticipated progression and interconnections within the knowledge to be acquired, with Attainment Targets being stated as statements of specific learning outcomes related to essential knowledge.”
I told you it wasn’t easy! What we need to be very wary of is the last clause with its reference to ‘essential knowledge’. Until we know what that means we can only live in dread! References to ‘having mastered the knowledge’ (in an otherwise sane discussion of assessment on page 47) show how some minds are cast.
6. The nonsense that is levels is acknowledged in the report and we all hope to see the back of them, come 2014. I think we will. Reassuringly, on p.43, the experts reiterate that they don’t want to ‘encourage the promulgation of atomistic and trivial statements of attainment’. Go tell that loud and clear to your deputy headteacher who is always on your back to produce ludicrously spurious and unreliable statements for ‘performance at 4b and 5c’ every 6 weeks.
7. There is much discussion in the report of what it terms ‘powerful knowledge’ as if this will help clarify later decisions about content. It won’t. All it does is introduce a new word that historians haven’t yet disagreed about. They will!
8. There is talk of avoiding overloading the NC specifications but that is followed by the obvious statement that what is learned must be ‘broad and balanced but also deep and secure’. So just more love your mother and apple pie.
9. There is waning support for citizenship, reclassified along with ICT and D&T as the basic Curriculum.
10. Curriculum delivery will be linear, but not specified year-by-year, thank goodness.
11. Sadly the group are not recommending changes to the execrable GCSE in history.
I’ll follow this up over the next few weeks with a more in-depth appraisal but I thought you might like the headlines, and an excuse for not having to read the impenetrable
The Framework for the National Curriculum