NC21: Memorandum submitted by DEA

Executive Summary:

There should be a flexible National Curriculum to set the aims, minimum standards and to bring coherence

Government must value and support teacher creativity

There should be a greater focus on preparing young people to live in a fast changing and globalised world

Government needs to stop micro-managing schools. The National Curriculum is undermined by the constant imposition of disparate, unconnected initiatives and by over-testing to narrow targets.

 

DEA

1. DEA promotes 'education for a just and sustainable world' and sees this as implying 'education that puts learning in a global context, fostering critical and creative thinking; self-awareness and open-mindedness towards difference; understanding of global issues and power relationships; and action and optimism for a better world'. DEA is a charity and has a network of member organisations working directly with schools.

 

Analysis and recommendations

2. The recent Secondary National Curriculum review has been positive, particularly because it has made the curriculum more flexible with a stronger focus on the global dimension and sustainable development. This new curriculum will be undermined if the government continues to impose disparate, unconnected initiatives and narrow centralised targets (and corresponding centralised managerialism) which do not complement the opportunities presented by this curriculum.

3. The literacy and numeracy strategies seem to override the National Curriculum when it comes to prioritising within schools. In order to be effective, the National Curriculum should provide a framework for other initiatives. There must be space and support for literacy and numeracy to be taught in innovative and flexible ways that contribute to the broader aims of education and that engage children, rather than for them to crowd out such broader aims.

4. We welcome the fact that the new secondary curriculum is aims led. Consideration of what schools are for is often lost in debates about 'effectiveness' in education. The purpose of the National Curriculum cannot be considered without consideration of the purpose of schools. DEA promotes 'education for a just and sustainable world' which, in our view, implies education that puts learning in a global context, fostering critical and creative thinking; self-awareness and open-mindedness towards difference; understanding of global issues and power relationships; and action and optimism for a better world. Both the aims of the new secondary curriculum and the Every Child Matters outcomes are framed as aspirations for individual pupils. This is fine for implementation purposes but we need to ensure that this individualistic focus does not stifle debate about the relationship between education and society.

5. We welcome the reducing of prescription and promoting of creativity, as indicated by the new secondary curriculum. However, such a big change requires flexible support particularly for teachers and senior managers. Many teachers have not taught without a narrow National Curriculum (in fact some were not even pupils without the National Curriculum), They are not, therefore, necessarily experienced in curriculum development. They do not need a 'one size fits all strategy' but flexible continuing professional development that supports teachers to work together and values teachers' own creativity.

6. We welcome Lord Goldsmith's recommendation that Citizenship should be statutory in primary schools. It will need considerable support in order to be implemented well. Support should be integrated with other initiatives, for example, completion of the Citizenship Continuing Professional Development programme should contribute towards the proposed Masters in Teaching and Learning.

7. We are concerned that the remit for Sir Jim Rose's review of the primary curriculum explicitly rules out consideration of the assessment and testing regime as these determine the parts of the curriculum which are in practice focused upon.

8. When part of QCA becomes a development agency rather than an authority, it is important that it should not become any less independent from Government. We are concerned that Government may want to use the splitting of QCA to have a greater say in the detail of curriculum development and support. QCA's current status recognises its educational expertise and reduces constant change in the National Curriculum. QCA is better placed than the Government for the important task of consulting teachers and other educators on the development of the National Curriculum.

9. There is often a lack of clarity amongst teachers as to what is statutory and what is 'guidance'.

 

10. The DEA will be producing a Policy Manifesto later in the year putting forward policy recommendations for education for a just and sustainable world which will address these questions in more detail.

14 March 2008