Report calls for National Curriculum reform

02 April 2009

There is far too much central Government control over the National Curriculum, concludes a report by the Children, Schools and Families Committee, published today.

The report finds that the National Curriculum and the guidance through National Strategies on how to teach it have de-skilled the teaching profession and have effectively turned schooling into "a franchise operation more dependent on a recipe handed down by Government rather than the exercise of professional expertise by teachers".

The Committee recommends that:

  • the National Curriculum should be slimmed down and a cap placed on the amount of teaching time that it can account for
  • the National Strategies should be discontinued in their current form
  • the freedoms that Academies enjoy in relation to the National Curriculum – being only required to follow the curriculum for the core subjects of English, maths, science and ICT – should be extended to all schools
  • the independence of the QCDA (Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency) should be guaranteed by a requirement to report to Parliament through the Select Committee.

The Committee is not convinced by the Programmes of Study for the primary curriculum proposed by Sir Jim Rose in his interim report and views them as unnecessarily complex. It also rejects his recommendation that it should become the norm for children to move to reception class at just age 4, on the basis that "due to their low practitioner-to-child ratios, these settings cannot cater for the needs of very young children".

The report also criticises the poor level of continuity and coherence both within the National Curriculum itself and throughout the learning journey from 0 to 19. The Committee demands a review of the National Curriculum on an approximately five-year cycle and as a continuum, rather than in a piecemeal fashion.

The Chairman of the Committee, Barry Sheerman MP, said:

"Simplicity is the main message from our inquiry into the National Curriculum. We need a simpler, more coherent curriculum. Poor transitions from one key stage to the next create disruptions which damage the educational experience of pupils. It is vital that this is tackled.

"We need to trust schools and teachers more and empower teachers to do what they do best.

"There is a regrettable tendency for governments to make continual changes to the structure and framework of the curriculum. Ministerial meddling must stop and we require the Government to establish the QCDA with full independence, reporting to Parliament through the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee."

Image: PA Photos

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