Memorandum to the House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee National Curriculum Review

Submitted on behalf of the New Vision Group’s Curriculum Aims sub-group (co-ordinated by John Elliott)

The memorandum is cited as evidence in Volume 2 of the Committee’s Fourth Report of Session 2008-09 (31 Ev 278). The following points are reflected in Volume 1, the body of the report.

  1. The need for a new aims-based curriculum framework that supports the development of a less prescriptive and more flexible National Curriculum that opens up a space for teachers to play a more generative role in curriculum planning and development.
    This point is particularly reflected in Section 5 Para’s 87-93, 101, 111-116 and recommendations 2, 16 and 28 within the report. However, the report does not appear to have recognised the full implications of the distinction drawn in the memorandum between a national curriculum framework and a centrally prescribed national curriculum. It is assumed that the former should only cover content that is centrally prescribed. Also the report fails to express any substantive views concerning the overarching purposes of the whole curriculum. The arguments in the memorandum in favour of a curriculum framework that supports “whole person development for every child through a wholistic curriculum, which balances the economic, moral and cultural purposes of education” are not addressed in the report.
  2. The need for a mechanism that is independent of government to identify the aims of the national curriculum and a broad framework of values and principles to guide curriculum planning and development at both national and local/regional levels.
    The memorandum recommends the establishment of a National Education Forum as such a mechanism. Instead the report recasts the QCDA in these terms as “independent of Ministers, and required to report to Parliament through the Select Committee.”(Para 109) One of the new roles of the QCDA will be to support more locally driven curriculum development (Para 100). This is very much in line with the memorandum’s recommendation that it should be the responsibility of teachers at the school and local area levels to make decisions about the organisation and sequencing of curriculum content (2 xiii).
  3. The proposed mechanism should have responsibility for issuing guidance that is based on commissioned research, about the implications of the national curriculum framework for curriculum and organisational practices in schools. The report proposes that, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity (Para 53), resources be diverted away from the provision of central guidance to the QCDA developing a facility to disseminate research findings to teachers “in the spirit of informing local professional decision-making.” (Rec 17).

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