the Dragonfly journal

The Revised National Curriculum: Friend or Foe?

By Alan Jervis - @Alan_Jervis

A teacher on the way to a briefing on the new National Curriculum bumped into a woman reading it outside the conference room.

“What do you think of it?” he asked.

Acknowledging the man, she replied: “Before I answer, can I ask what you thought of the last revision of the curriculum?”

“Well, the last revision was a real dog’s dinner,” replied the man. “It was too prescriptive, too narrow, focused on the wrong things and made my teaching more sterile and didactic!” he retorted.

“I think you will find this revision much the same,” she whispered.

Soon afterwards, another teacher passed the same woman on the way to the conference and asked her thoughts on it.

“What did you make of the last revision?” she replied for the second time.

“Wonderful,” replied the man. “It gave me more scope to challenge students to become more independent learners, provided a framework for raising academic standards and really motivated students to achieve,” he gushed.

“I think you will find this new revision much the same!” she exclaimed.

The new National Curriculum is to teachers, it seems, what they make of it. But could it really provide schools in England with an opportunity to take another step on the road to student-based independent enquiry?

The NUT, for one, is far from convinced. Executive Alex Kenny recently condemned the curriculum as being based upon little more than “pub-quiz” chunks of information. His NUT colleague, Christine Blower, went as far to state that “teachers are genuinely fearful that pupils will be forced to learn in a way that is inappropriate”.

However, if I’ve learnt anything about our teachers from my decade in teacher training, it’s that we have more inspirational, creative and talented teachers now than ever before. I have faith in our teachers to avoid these pitfalls. They will use the new curriculum to support students’ learning through experimentation and discovery. Our wonderful teachers will ensure that students take a greater responsibility for their own learning and will encourage them to build learning structures through imaginative lessons ideas.

The Department of Education has stated: “We are giving every school more freedom and trust teachers to use their creativity to shape the curriculum to the needs of their pupils”, and I believe this trust is well placed. I have never known a time when teachers are more skilled in encouraging students to think for themselves.

Whether the new National Curriculum will turn out to be a success in raising academic standards only time will tell. But for me, I think it will. Why? Because we have some of the best teachers in the world.