Thirty years ago yesterday, the education system went into labour. An idea that had been gestating for a long time came into the world. And not without difficulty. After 30 years, it’s time to put down the ailing national curriculum, one teacher argues in Tes, but what to replace it with?
Raised in a dysfunctional family environment by warring parents, it has at times been gorged with sweets and treats to alleviate its parents’ guilt, and at others been mistreated and neglected as a proxy for their distaste for each other. It is no surprise then that the sickly child has grown into a maladjusted adult. Yes, I speak of the national curriculum, and I am in no doubt when I pronounce the cause of its death as Hyper-Accountability Disorder.
Major reforms of the curriculum have taken place with alarming regularity. Each separate health-check an indicator of developing issues. The result of this Serious Case Review must be for lessons to be learned about the failures of democratic institutions to identify the threat the parents (and their enablers) posed to their offspring.
The 1994 Dearing review was convened to slim down an already overburdened curriculum, and in 1995 the curriculum was put on to a new care plan based on the review’s recommendations.
From September 1998, once again with a view to control the curriculum’s weight, New Labour disapplied statutory programmes of study for foundation subjects. This was insufficient. A new care plan was drafted in 1999, and by September 2000 was put into practice.
It would be another eight years before the national curriculum’s case would come under review again. This relatively lengthy period of stability was highly likely due to New Labour’s profligacy with funding masking many problems from responsible agencies. At this point, the curriculum’s weight was identified as having once again become too great, and its lack of flexibility was noted. A review by Jim Rose the same year proposed a new care plan, which never went into effect because the curriculum moved back in with its other parent.
Instead, a new review was carried out by Tim Oates in 2011, which the said parent roundly ignored (or at best cherry-picked from), before putting into effect their own new regime, justified by a new bout of conspiratorial theorising, this time about a dangerous Blob.
While blaming politicians of this or that creed might provide us with solace, it promises nothing but a future of vain attempts to revive what should remain buried – a Frankenstein curriculum of parts pilfered from high-performing systems according to Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) rankings, stapled together with teachers’ self-purchased stationery supplies, and electrified by political rhetoric. A zombie curriculum. A monster.
Read more about the rise and fall of the National Curriculum The national curriculum is dying. RIP
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