NC11: Memorandum submitted by The Association of Professionals in Education and Children's Trusts (Aspect)
1. The Association of Professionals in Education and Children's Trusts (Aspect) is the nationally-recognised professional association for Local Authority school improvement staff, independent educational consultants and, an increasingly broad range of children's services professionals. Aspect's key focus is educational improvement and the organisation seeks to furnish positive contributions to national educational and general children's services policy development and implementation. Local authority advisers on whole-school and curriculum development are predominantly in membership of Aspect.
2. The Association endorses the principle of a National Curriculum but believes that fitness-for-purpose can be improved by prioritising adherence to a number of broad principles, aims and objectives.
3. A national framework that allows sufficient flexibility for local sensitivities and priorities represents a potentially powerful and effective model.
The nature of curriculum provision
4. Fundamentally, the curriculum for children and young people needs to focus on encouraging learning for all, by promoting understanding and questioning through the provision of a range of experiences. A wide variety of experiences is required both for and between individual learners.
5. The core aim of such a curriculum is to provide and inspire children and young people with a range of language and number skills, a broad and balanced range of knowledge and other skills, attitudes that embrace learning in and out of the classroom and positive social outlooks. Effectively, education provides the essential grounding that enables later progress through life.
6. The growing mass of available information renders the importance of enquiry and synthesis crucial. Rapid, and sometimes unpredictable, technological and other changes mean that education has to provide young people with skills which facilitate personal flexibility in order to live and prosper in the future.
7. Addressing skills and attitudes is at least as valuable as the base of desired knowledge. A move to project-style curriculum programmes which promote the skills of learning is appropriate, rather than a segmented subject base.
8. Curriculum provision should promote collaboration between specialists as well as flexible pathways for young people, with curriculum content appropriate to individual learners.
9. Curriculum organisation demands coherent transition between key stages, with learning programmes that allow for individual progression regardless of age and not rigid age-related stages.
10. Through the delivery of education in schools, it is important for children and young people to develop respect for others as an important quality, alongside other positive attributes such as self-respect and self-esteem. These characteristics promote confidence and the capacity to co-operate throughout the stages of life. Key core values and principles to be inculcated include reciprocity, sincerity, honesty, integrity, tolerance and compassion.
11. The increasingly global context within which we live needs to be portrayed at an early stage, with the available PSHE and citizenship frameworks offering relevant programmes. Such programmes can be rendered appropriate to pupils' ages, abilities and backgrounds and provide opportunities to address real life and topical issues promoting tolerance and respect. This will facilitate and reflect respect for the values and aspirations of the many different cultural, ethnic, religious, political, economic, regional and local communities catered for by schools.
12. Technological and social change limits future planning, with any current state of knowledge enjoying a short "shelf life". Nevertheless, each provision planning cycle needs to have a vision for the future while building in high levels of flexibility in order to adapt to changes in society's needs. Irrespective of the given curriculum content at any time, implanting learning skills and inspiring a desire to learn are at the heart of educational purpose.
Impact on Learning and teaching
13. Pupils learn most effectively when they feel safe and secure and are healthy - key elements of the Every Child Matters agenda. They need to gain a sense of fulfilment and enjoyment to succeed which underlines the fact that learning styles and the pace of learning vary for individuals and these should be taken into account in planning provision.
15. The pedagogical implications of recent research reinforce developments in personalised learning and the impact of Meta learning, taking account of different intelligences including emotional intelligence. It is important to build the individual pupil's power to learn, making the social pedagogic approaches found in other parts of Europe particularly interesting. The main implications underline the importance of a "can do" ethos in schools.
16. Equally, schools' abilities to deliver all of the Every Child Matters five outcomes for children reinforce the capacity for overcoming barriers to effective learning. It is vital to stress that physical and emotional well-being are pre-requisites necessary for pupils' to "Enjoy and "Achieve". Stress, motivational deficits and stunted social development are all basic contributors to under-achievement.
17. Gender differences are manifested in commonly found weaknesses in boys' writing and there is some evidence that there are gender-characteristic bases to variations in favoured learning styles. Suitable personalised responses can be found through multi-sensory approaches to learning and by deploying mechanisms such as Brain Gym.
18. Issues of girls' confidence and expectations, notably in mathematics and science, also need to be addressed positively. Schools should consider how to use role models in addressing gender issues and take care in the selection and deployment of teaching resources.
19. Learning impediments are often patently linked to family and domestic circumstances as well as levels of poverty. Analyses of pupil achievement present this clearly. All schools need contextualised provision together with awareness of a broad spectrum of special educational needs, especially with the increased incidence of dyslexia and ADHD.
20. Individualised approaches should lead to children and young people being empowered to understand their own learning progress and on-going learning needs. They should be enabled to become semi-autonomous in their methodology of learning working with school staff in Meta learning approaches having the confidence to experiment and gain knowledge from any mistakes made. Confidence and success are likely to ensue.
21. Teaching styles need to be varied and to include "hand-on" experiential situations for pupils who also should be allowed to initiate their own learning if it is to provide good and lasting stimulation.
22. Developments in the use of assessment data, with individual pupil target setting underpinning teaching and learning, reflect the value of "classroom research".
23. There is considerable scope for utilising larger scale national and international research to inform curriculum policy and practice.
24. Local budget limitations often restrict the capacity for teacher and other staff Continuing Professional Development which acts to the detriment of overall development.
25. High quality up-to- date ICT and other new technologies, and related staff training and encouragement, are absolutely essential as classroom tools for teaching and learning. The effective use of multi-media acts as a motivator and stimulant for pupils; the connected skills are vital to 21st Century life and the capacity to provide knowledge cannot be replicated in other ways.
Curriculum and Assessment
26. While the current emphasis is understandably placed on basic skills, social skills and experiential learning, more attention should be given to promoting strategies related to "how to learn", thinking skills and developing the capacity of pupils to transfer learning between different situations.
27. A meaningful, balanced and relevant curriculum must encompass mathematics, science, English, PSHE and the foundation subjects, though a strong role for creativity and skill development through practical learning situations is also vital. 21st Century learning is often more about new methods of delivery than changed content.
28. Future developments need to take account of more flexibility in curriculum provision, through innovative timetabling as well as pupil- initiated projects and the use of exciting and accessible multi-media.
29. Greater consideration should be accorded to the part that European models of social pedagogy can play in ways of inter-connecting learning and care as well as small group work and project teams to promote the development of truly personalised learning.
30. The general principles of social pedagogy incorporate focussing on the children and young people holistically so supporting overall development, encouraging constant reflection of practice by professionals; greater appreciation of the impact of the learning environment and higher levels of pupil involvement in their own learning. These principles, reinforced by modern ICT, should be major influences on curriculum experiences
31. Early years curriculum should embrace a more gradual entry into formal learning situations with greater value placed on structured play, as appropriate for young children.
32. More attention to the diagnosis of the different needs of children, including those with specific learning difficulties, is required with less reliance on teacher observation and intuitive reactions in order to influence curriculum provision.
33. Assessment for Learning provides crucial mechanisms which promote individual target setting and learning plans that allow teachers to focus on individual pupils' needs, so providing effective accountability measures and ensuring more meaningful outcomes.
Diversity and Inclusion
39. In meeting the different learning needs and cultural backgrounds of pupils, practice varies greatly. Overall, classes remain large and many schools are too stretched in terms of staff workloads and resourcing. Better teacher-pupil ratios would release resources for effective planning and innovation.
40. Inclusive education, while having merits, does, on occasion, potentially disadvantage those with unmet needs, pupils unsuited to mainstream provision and other pupils in the cohort from whom attention is diverted, as well as spreading limited specialist resources thinly.
41. More resources are required and closer analysis is necessary of how inclusive education can best be managed to maximise meeting the needs of all pupils.
42. English as an Additional Language (EAL) support requires greater investment to embed more consistent provision.
43. PSHE programmes can play a major role in advancing attitudes of tolerance and understanding.
44. More consideration of those with low-level additional needs has to be incorporated into the personalisation agenda.
44. Securing the engagement of disengaged and disaffected children and young people demands the creation of a curriculum ethos that builds individual confidence to engage with the education system which, in turn, requires more innovative and flexible solutions in terms of provision and the learning environment.
45. If the curriculum is to respond to the social challenges of "hard to reach" children and young people, it must be viewed in contexts that also address community and family cohesion.
46.The implementation of the Children Act 2004 points to curriculum developments being set into a multi-agency environment, with a cross-professional basis to service delivery.
47. The dominant curriculum issue is identifying the progressive skills and attitudes that children and young people require, together with bodies of relevant knowledge and finding systems and styles that take account of individual need.
48. The properly funded and ongoing professional development of those involved in the delivery of a sustainable and modernised curriculum is a crucial issue.
49. The future curriculum has to promote a capacity and disposition which makes for effective learners who are skilled at risk-taking and persistent in coping with change, learning from mistakes, probing for answers, experimenting and seeking a broad-based understanding of the world.