Estelle Morris has written an excellent piece in today’s Guardian which I would highly recommend to all readers with an interest in the UK education system and, more generally, in curriculum development within educational policy.
She highlights a number of weaknesses in the Conservative party ‘policy’ (or should that be lack of policy, as we really are having to guess what precisely they are wanting to do) in respect to their policy on curriculum development and implementation. Her belief is that the QCDA may be the shortest lived quango of all time should the Tories come to power. But, worryingly given her political status and position in the educational world, she seems none the wiser than the rest of us about who might take responsibility for shaping future iterations of curriculum frameworks.
Let’s briefly consider a couple of contexts. Firstly, the secondary curriculum. In the last three years the National Curriculum for Key Stage 3 has undergone a significant transformation. In my travels around schools and in my work as a National Subject Lead for Music, I have heard many positive stories about the changes that this has facilitated in our schools. It’s not all good news (obviously), but the changes have been generally welcomed. Secondly, the primary curriculum. Here, things are far from clear. There have been several reviews (Rose, Cambridge Review, etc) and the QCDA have recently published a ‘new’ primary curriculum on their website. But there is a considerably lack of clarity about what is going to change, how and when? Just go and talk with any primary school teacher, or primary teacher trainer. Why? I think it is because of direct political interference from all political parties. The primary curriculum reforms has become a political football and this is disgraceful. It is far too important for that.
So, the future of the QCDA is uncertain should the Tories get in. But the alternative on offer is no more certain either. Morris sketches out what she believes might happen. It sounds frightening and I’ll let her words speak for themselves. But as she points out, little, if any, lessons seem to have been learnt from recent history about the process of curriculum development in Tory thinking. (The cynic in me wonders whether many of them really mind too much; after all, independent schools have always done their own thing – perhaps they are just extending that principle to the rest of us?).
Ultimately, I agree with Morris that there is a substantial lack of vision in what we can glean from the Tory proposals. The QCDA, for all its failings, has at least implemented a process of significant curriculum reform in the secondary curriculum and, given the opportunity, would have done the same for the primary curriculum. One can always argue over details of these reforms. But the big process for curriculum development, policy and implementation under a Tory Government leaves a massive amount to be desired. What do you think?