Over the past year the review of the National Curriculum in England has been looking at curricula in the highest performing, and fastest improving, jurisdictions internationally. Today I am publishing a set of initial findings and recommendations.
The review team’s work has uncovered a consistent theme: these high-performing jurisdictions set materially higher expectations in terms of what they believe children can and should master at different ages. This comes as no surprise. Over the past ten years our education system as measured by performance in the OECD’s PISA international league tables has deteriorated significantly. If our schools, and young people, are to become internationally competitive again we must learn from the best in the world.
The recommendations made by the review’s expert panel set out the scale of the challenge we face, and raise fundamental questions about educational practice in this country. For example:
The expert panel recommend that we learn from the approach to assessment and pupil progression used in many high-performing jurisdictions, including the most successful South-East Asian education systems, which ensure that every pupil has mastered the subject content before the class moves on to tackle the next part of the curriculum. They express concern that our existing assessment model assumes that a certain proportion of young people will never be able to master crucial curriculum content, leading to an unjustified lowering of expectations.
The international evidence shows that all successful jurisdictions expect pupils to study a broad curriculum to age 16, built around a core of academic subjects. The expert panel argue that England narrows its curriculum for the majority of pupils too early.
The evidence identifies the higher expectations of pupils in mathematics, English and science in high performing jurisdictions. For example, in Singapore, pupils are expected to know all their times tables and related division facts by the end of Year 4, here our national expectation is at Year 6; pupils in Singapore are also expected to learn about plant and animal cells in Year 6, including how cell division forms the basis of growth, while we leave this until secondary; the Canadian province of Alberta and the US state of Massachusetts both have a separate section on grammar in their curricula with clear standards which must be met; Poland, a fast improving education system, has high expectations in their recommended reading, including Homer, Chekhov and Shakespeare alongside great works of Polish literature.
The panel also recommend that we should look again at the “key stage” structure of the curriculum which they argue can lead to a lack of pace and ambition at key points in pupil’s education.
It would, of course, be wrong to conclude that England should simply import systems used in other countries wholesale. But it is absolutely clear that these findings challenge fundamental tenets of our current system.
The expert panel also raise crucial questions about the complex interaction between curriculum and qualifications in secondary schools. Evidence shows that what is taught is determined as much if not more by examinations as by the National Curriculum. This means we need to consider GCSE reform alongside the development of the new curriculum.
As the recent revelations in the Daily Telegraph have confirmed, far-reaching reform to our examinations system is vital – and must be considered in parallel with changes to the secondary curriculum. While immediate action is needed to deal with the improper practices that have been revealed, we need also to take the opportunity to ensure that deep-seated problems with how GCSEs have been developed and delivered can be addressed. We must ensure that qualifications support excellent teaching that develops in pupils a broad and deep understanding of the subject.
In light of the far-reaching and complex nature of the expert panel recommendations, and to allow for more radical reform of both curriculum and qualifications, I have decided to change the planned timetable for the introduction of the new National Curriculum. Instead of new curricula for English, mathematics, science and PE being introduced from 2013, and the remainder in 2014, the new curriculum for all subjects will be introduced in 2014.
The longer timescale will allow for further debate with everyone interested in creating a genuinely world-class education system; teachers, governors, academics, business leaders and parents, as well as giving schools more time to prepare for a radically different and more rigorous approach.
A detailed timetable for the conduct of the remainder of the review, as well as a refreshed remit, will be published in the New Year (2014) and copies will be placed in the Library of the House.
Secretary of State, Department for Education - Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Editor's comments - [ On 7 February 2013 the Secretary of State for Education (Michael Goves) announced a public consultation on the draft National Curriculum which will run until 16 April 2013. The consultation also asks for views on proposals to disapply aspects of the current National Curriculum from September 2013, so as to give schools greater flexibility as they prepare to teach the new one.
A final version of the new National Curriculum will be available in autumn 2013 for first teaching in schools from September 2014.
According to this draft of the National curriculum; A high-quality physical education curriculum inspires all pupils to succeed and excel in competitive sport and other physically-demanding activities. It should provide opportunities for pupils to become physically confident in a way which supports their health and fitness. Opportunities to compete in sport and other activities build character and help to embed values such as fairness and respect. ] Reference this?Cryer, J. (2013). This page title in italics. Retrieved date, from In the text: Cryer (2013)
Reference : DfE. (2013). Review of the National Curriculum in England: (Physical Education KS1-4). London: Department for Education
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