HAWKS AND DOVES?
THE NEW (DRAFT) NATIONAL CURRICULUM 2013
(CONSULTATION PERIOD TO APRIL 15th 2013)
Please click here to see the consultation document.
(Luke Abbott, President of NATD, has written the following preface to the Draft, National Curriculum Document 2013. It is required, urgent reading for all who care about the future of Education in this country. He concludes by saying: “This is not a time to wait and see.“)
The government has taken, in my view, the unwise step of defining the curriculum as a set of knowledge-based outcomes and overviews without any pedagogic methodological steers. We know from the work of Tim Oates (Chair of the New National Curriculum Advisory Group) that this was deliberate. However, our world class educational academics who were initially invited to reconstruct the curriculum by Michael Gove, Secretary of State found the task impossible to achieve within the constraints imposed by the offices of the DfE. Early last year, they resigned. In a letter sent to the Secretary of State for Education they expressed their deep concern for the future of our nation’s education as set out in the desired paths set down by Government in the ensuing interpreted framework. (See Dr Mary James’ and Dr Andrew Pollard’s letter of resignation to Michael Gove and the NC Advisory Group 2012)
CHANGING TIMES AND CHALLENGING LEARNING TOWARDS A WORLD CLASS CURRICULUM.
The thinking it seems is that teachers will (as indicated in the rubric in the first paragraphs) provide interesting and exciting teaching methods to structure learning episodes without any other detailed steer about what this looks like. For example, we have in the past had HMI’s rubrics focussing on learning outcomes for Knowledge, Skills and Understanding (KSU) within Attainment Target 1 of the National Curriculum focussing on ‘Application of KSU’. Indeed the current Maths curriculum has no AT1 with the expectation that Mathematics concerns the application of KSU at all times.
It will, therefore, be up to teaching professionals to raise the pedagogic debates yet again, with the inevitable tensions between the ‘child centred’ v ‘knowledge acquisition’ standpoints.
Such an abdication of expected pedagogy within a National Curriculum will therefore rest with schools to define according to their successes in the measurement of outcomes scrutinised by Ofsted. Fortunately, HMI colleagues have already castigated ‘boring and uninspiring’ teaching in recent times which bodes well for those in the profession who know how to deploy methods and constructs of imaginative pedagogies, which is where applied drama for learning resides so effectively.
The New draft National Curriculum document needs to be read by all of us, in detail, so that we can begin to perceive the weightings required by schools to define the implications for teaching. (For example, of British History, facts, knowledge and expectations.) Also we would be wise to scrutinise the ‘small print’ appendices of statutory requirements for the teaching of English in KS EYS-KS2. The teaching of English at KS3, will also demand close examination during the period of consultation, so that we can review the necessary steps to be taken to fulfil the requirements. With the deadline set for mid April, we all need to act fast. I therefore urge all teachers using Drama for Learning and drama practitioners to review the National Curriculum 2013 document and send any critiques as soon as possible to the DfE on the website provided.
In addition, there are other urgent matters worth considering for those of us who value dramatic learning as an active, imaginative method in teaching. For example the apparent superficial detail of any Speaking and Listening or Talk for Learning expectations as well as any other reference to drama for learning, other than possible uses of ‘role play’ in non statutory sections of English. We also observe that there is little expectation placed on the KSU of integrated learning systems as used throughout primary schools in the UK. (One also wonders what the problem is with the National Curriculum 2000 which in content and pedagogy seems eminently suitable with possibilities for all schools to include or adapt depending on their circumstances.)
One further matter worth noting is that schools with Academy Status can choose their own curriculum content with or without reference to a National Curriculum. Given that the current government direction of travel is to encourage all secondary schools to take up Academy Status (including Free Schools) a ‘free state’ regarding curriculum modelling will mean an inevitable dislocation between many non-Academy status primary schools and their feeder Academy status secondary schools in terms of transitional curriculum practices, content and skills. We may therefore, sadly, return to the ‘secondary tail wagging the primary dog’ of yesteryear.
Clearly, we need to take urgent action to stake a claim for a curriculum beyond facts and knowledge acquisition. With wisdom, we can indeed begin to use the People Centred matrix based on the 1944 tenets within the Education Act, whereby the most significant learning outcomes for the future of our nation (and perhaps the world too?) rests in the SMSC (Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural) domains not only so well served by the active imaginative modes of drama based learning experiences but also so highly lauded by HMI both in the past decades and currently.
This is not a time to wait and see.