NC02: Memorandum submitted by Tim Peskett

Summary

The National Curriculum needs to be reviewed and reduced to a broad set of guiding principles

It should better relate to the Every Child Matters agenda and that of 'enjoyment' in learning

Central prescription of testing and assessment must be reduced or altered substantially if the curriculum is to be more flexibly interpreted

National Strategies do not take into account of best teaching and learning approaches, though this is improving

The Rose Review should work alongside the Primary Review(Alexander) in order to create a unique consensual model for primary education

Personalised learning must be clarified and also supported with adequate resources.

Teachers need to be consulted when the National Curriculum is ever reviewed

The submitter

Tim Peskett, aged 61, ex-primary headteacher in two schools, during which time the National Curriculum came on stream. Currently a school governor trainer, initial teacher trainer/tutor and associate tutor on a master's programme in educational leadership.

Recommendations for action

1. The principle of whether there should be a National Curriculum and its' fitness for purpose

 

a. Historically, both the possibility and desirability of replacing the National Curriculum[NC] seems too challenging. It is now too embedded in the cultural life of schools to change in ways which will enhance what might be offered to pupils.

b. What needs to be carefully reviewed are two key points: i) that the strands of the NC been seen as that, thereby offering a looser form of guidance, perhaps with a minimum requirement of broad principles; ii) that this flexibility be more carefully allied with both the Every Child Matters agenda[ECM] and that relating to the 'enjoyment' perspective.

c. Teachers seek a genuine freeing-up of the irksome, inhibiting hand of prescription, where government requirements ill-match best practices in teaching and learning, together with the latest research outcomes on sustainable learning outcomes. Thus, broad guidance would inject into the teaching profession a long-awaited energising thrust. This has been so very long awaited.

d. Balancing central prescription and school level flexibility will never be possible without some movement by government on the current testing regime. Schools have to have some release from this pressure if they are to utilise the best practices that could enhance standards in ways that are in keeping with successful teaching and learning. So, to provide more flexibility cannot be done without some concurrent movement on how pupils are tested for external accountability. To think otherwise is naive at best.

 

2. The management of the National Curriculum

a. There is a case for arguing that the National Strategies are partially effective in supporting the NC but this should not be confused with whether this is the same as addressing pupils' diverse needs. It is not. The Strategies form part of the central support for the NC but they again do not take sufficient notice of best teaching and learning practice. While this has begun to change recently there is still a very long way to go.

b. Greater flexibility and choice over learning methods that will meet a more flexible model of entitlement, should be seriously considered. Teachers will find the most suitable methods - individualised - for each pupil or groups of pupils.

c. As current testing and assessment arrangements necessarily dictate what must be taught and learnt, this congruency must be altered if more sustainable learning is to be supported and encouraged.

d. Sir Jim Rose's current review of the primary curriculum is important. However, it should work in conjunction with, and be supported by, the other major review currently taking place led by Prof.Robin Alexander of Cambridge University. [www.primaryreview.org.uk/publications/interimreports] The latter offers the fullest review of research into the many aspects of the primary curriculum and these reports should inform the Rose review. This is a unique opportunity for two key inquiries to acknowledge the work of one another and to bring some professional and political consensus into the world of school-based education.

e. Personalised learning still needs clarification. Still there is the sad conclusion to be drawn that it means different things to different people. A genuine consensus is required to be attained, one supported by all parties but which also recognises the resource implications of even attempting to plan for individualised learning.

f. Finally, it would be professionally heartening for teachers to know and to feel that in the future their collective views on the development of the NC would be given creditworthiness. An explicit, consultative approach is what is needed, with openly-subscribed focus groups encompassing a range of professionals within schools.