The Educator's PLN

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Curriculum Review - Same old National Curriculum or a brave new world?

As Marius in Les Miserables says " Our time is here!" The Government are asking for our opinions of any new National Curriculum, our time is here, the time is now to have our voices heard.

There will be those who say that whatever we say, will fall on deaf ears as the Government already have their ideal for education. However this time it's different! Hear me out.

If you want the education system to be about remembering facts are regurgitating them in tests to perversely prove academic ability then you will go to the US to look at their fact driven curriculum. This is exactly what Mr Gove has done.


However it is our duty to make sure that OUR education system isn't driven by political ideology and fond recollections from prep school and that we build it on the precepts of the systems that are most successful.


If you think back, Mr Gove, is very good at quoting OECD data to help support his ideologically driven plans for education.  He regularly quotes the fact that over the last ten years according to OECD data we have fallen dramatically behind. This is despite the fact that OECD themselves say "sorry you can't make comparisons over ten years but only with 2006 data sets." 

However that data doesn't support Mr Gove's assertion that our education system is failing. If there isn't a reason for change then use data to selectively invent one!

If you want to look at the data it is here:  It is worth a look! This is the data that statisticians and civil servants at DfE look at to create their impressions of education in England.

Working with these people on the ill fated "School Report Card" was truly frightening. These people don't let real life and what is in front of them living and breathing get in the way of how they interpret statistics.  The assumptions from the data, then sets policy (a quantum leap to take involving huge assumptions). Think about how OFSTED see the data and not what is in front of them staring them in the face and then quadruple it.

These people are setting the tone for educational reform! It reminds me of a conversation I once had with someone who suggested that as we were at the 7th centile this year with our KS2 sats results on Raise then we should be aiming for 3rd next year. If we were dealing with consistent commodities then maybe but children and cohorts aren't!

So now we know who is setting the backdrop for the curriculum review, if you aren't scared you should be!

It seems that the new curriculum is above what we teach and allowing teachers to teach it. As yet there is nothing about the world into which my current Reception class will go in 2025.

Will they need the same education as previously? Will they need to know the kings and queens of England in order and with dates of assuming the throne and how they met their end? I'm not saying it's not interesting but the model of assume knowledge, be tested, get qualification = job is out of date. It may be what the public know now and are comfortable with but it isn't relevant any more. It is measured by how much we remember from what we were "taught" at school. Remembering and learning are two different concepts!

The best article I've read on this issue is here and it s written by Andreas Schleicher who works for Mr Gove's preferred source of information, the OECD!  Interestingly this article appears to have been buried. I commend you to publish it far and wide because this is the premise on which any new National Curriculum should be built!

Secondly I came across this short piece carried out by BBC North America . Some of this you may have heard but it is worth 6 minutes to see what is working!!

Some of the things that resonated were:

* Hearing the Headteacher say "This is my school, not the politicians!"

* Children starting school at 7 so that they are motivated and then the same teacher working with them into the High School years. Knowing what makes them tick and then using this to ensure that they use and apply their understanding. This contrast with here when we get them started asap and cram them with as much knowledge as we can so that when we test them they might have remembered more!

* Parents are key and work hard to support their children before they start school and beyond.

* The kids spend the least number of hours in school in the developed world and yet achieve the best results. Less is more!

* Both Heads and classteachers feel trusted by the politicians. There is no talk of inadequacy or failing schools!

* Nokia talk of the key learning they need being in Maths, English and Technology. Interestingly they manage to be top of the league tables without Latin! Our Government have no such place for technology. Apparently the Govt say that it can aid teaching. No mention of how it can promote learning by the children using it.

So, the message is clear from OECD data and the BBC article. The best system is in Finland. All the key points above are vital to any review of the National Curriculum but above all that we need to grab the agenda as educators and make the Government realise that learning is not what it was.

Revisit Ken Robinson's Changing the Educational Paradigm

Ken talks about learning and the requirements for learning having changed. Too right! What was fine for twenty years ago in terms of teaching is no longer going to cut it for our learners.

Instead of us as teachers telling the children what the answer is and to learn it ready for a test, we now need to accept that much of what we held dear in our programmes of study is freely available on TV and the net.

I'll finish with the OECD and Mr Schleicher because I can't express it better than he does:


"For most of the last century, the widespread belief among policymakers was that you had to get the basics right in education before you could turn to broader skills. It's as though schools needed to be boring and dominated by rote learning before deeper, more invigorating learning could flourish.


Those that hold on to this view should not be surprised if students lose interest or drop out of schools because they cannot relate what is going on in school to their real lives.

We live in a fast-changing world, and producing more of the same knowledge and skills will not suffice to address the challenges of the future. A generation ago, teachers could expect that what they taught would last their students a lifetime. Today, because of rapid economic and social change, schools have to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, technologies that have not yet been invented and problems that we don't yet know will arise.

How do we foster motivated, dedicated learners and prepare them to overcome the unforeseen challenges of tomorrow? The dilemma for educators is that routine cognitive skills, the skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test, are also the skills that are easiest to digitize, automate or outsource. There is no question that state-of-the-art skills in particular disciplines will always remain important. However, educational success is no longer about reproducing content knowledge, but about extrapolating from what we know and applying that knowledge to novel situations.


Education today is much more about ways of thinking which involve creative and critical approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. It is also about ways of working, including communication and collaboration, as well as the tools they require, such as the capacity to recognise and exploit the potential of new technologies, or indeed, to avert their risks. And last but not least, education is about the capacity to live in a multi-faceted world as an active and engaged citizen. These citizens influence what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, and it is this that shapes the role of educators.


Any review of curriculum and teaching and learning

 must have this at the core.


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