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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 July 2007, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Views on the curriculum changes
Plans to overhaul the curriculum taught in secondary schools have been announced.

Here's a selection of views on the changes and whether they are needed.


Teacher in class
The curriculum should give teachers more of a choice

The broad thinking is to maintain a core of learning that's fixed and enduring, but free up much more time around choice for teachers according to the needs of children.

It's the personalisation of learning that's the critical thing here. Children start at different beginnings and learn at different paces.

What we want is some fixed knowledge, skills and understanding for learning, but the curriculum acknowledges that they will approach learning in different ways.

It needs to be understood what has happened. We haven't just gone through the existing curriculum and struck out 25%.

What we have done is looked at the curriculum as a whole and said what is it that is absolutely critical that our youngsters, living in Britain in this century, must know, must be able to do, must be able to understand.

We have identified for example in history an understanding of the relations between the Crown and Parliament.

We have identified a need to understand the industrial revolution, the two world wars - these are fixed and enduring things that must be studied.

But there are other things ...which are no longer so relevant - that is therefore left to the teacher's discretion.

Are we going to deal with the Battle of the Nile or are we instead going to concentrate on how to take out a mortgage and manage it - and use the school time for that purpose?

It's always been the job of schools to respond to the needs of the children of the time.

On issues like obesity, issues like teenage pregnancy, which are running at extraordinary high rates, the school has a role to deal with these issues which are very real for youngsters.


I like the sound of more space because around the world every single country is exploring how they can move their curriculum forward quickly enough to keep up with the pace of change - social and economic change.

But obviously we are worried that space is just one more thing that's being added to an already busy curriculum.

It's what's being taken out that's important.

Schooling was in a bit of crisis - we did need some proper, solid guidance. That guidance has evolved and evolved and that's entirely proper.

This change is one more step in a staircase of change that is with us for our professional careers.

Things have been added and added - we've got everything from debt management through to cooking a nutritional meal added - and that's necessary.

But schools need the space to be able to borrow good ideas from around the world and develop ideas themselves.

We could do away with the rigidity of the boxes around the subject disciplines.

To some extent we have got that already but we don't want our children learning about climate change five different times.

What we want is a project on climate change which embraces geography and embraces their PSHE (personal, social health education).


I like flexibility in principle but the important thing is to make sure the choice is meaningful and that means making sure that we develop the basics right.

That means getting teachers in place with the skills required to be able to provide pupils with a meaningful choice.

For example when we hear we are going to have Mandarin and Urdu must of us would say that's thoughtful - it reflects what's happening globally the fact that India and China are rising powers.

But when you look at what's happening we see that the number of pupils taking modern languages is declining - except in independent schools.

The number of teachers equipped to teach these subjects is declining.

It's important that there is flexibility but I want to make sure we don't engage in Audrey Hepburn politics.

In My Fair Lady, Audrey Hepburn says of everything, "Wouldn't it be lovely."

And wouldn't it be lovely if we could do all these things, but what we have to ask is, "is the flexibility there?"

Take a core subject like maths, which is one of the most important subjects in the curriculum.

At the moment in secondary schools fewer than half of maths teachers actually have a degree level qualification in maths.


What we have been seeking to do is to advance the case of common sense in schools.

It's very important that what our children are taught in school reflects social priorities today.

It is therefore right that children should be promoting better financial literacy in schools, so the children should be better able to manage their money.

We should put greater emphasis on life skills - including cooking. We should see that issues like environmental change are taught in schools, that the range of languages should reflect the nature of the modern world.

But we will make nothing of any of these subjects unless we get the basics of numeracy and literacy right in schools.

That is why we have been putting greater emphasis on effective teaching of reading and writing in the earliest years in school - including a new emphasis on phonics.

It's why Ed Balls, the Children and Schools secretary, announced earlier this week a review into the teaching of basic maths including a new provision for catch up for children who are starting to fall behind in maths in the earliest years of primary school.

We have got to trust the professional judgment of teachers. These are highly trained professionals.

They are guided by head teachers who are better trained than every before. Judgements about how precisely we allocate time should be left to them.

For example in the geography curriculum, we have removed the absolute requirement that children should study Ordnance Survey maps of different sizes.

These are the sorts of judgements that it is absolutely right that it is left to teachers.

What we do want our children to leave schools with a with? Those essential life skills as well as the essential knowledge that equips them to be good citizens.


Schools crave more freedom and flexibility to concentrate on the basics while developing new areas of teaching, based on their own needs.

What they are being offered is yet more spin, empty promises and meddling from ministers.

Introducing courses in Mandarin and Urdu sounds very modern, but how many children is this ever going to actually affect?

Before we start talking about Mandarin we should get more children learning French or Spanish.

Changes to the teaching of financial literacy are little more than a re-announcement of existing policy.

Young people are going to need much better financial understanding to cope with high debts from tuition fees and mortgages and to grasp our hideously complex pensions system.

But the answer is surely to reform maths lessons so that children learn skills which actually relate to the real world.

The QCA has missed an opportunity to radically overhaul the national curriculum.

By hanging onto a subject based curriculum the QCA makes it hard for teachers to meet the differing learning styles and needs of individual children - to personalise their learning.

The new national curriculum also fails to move away from the current over-emphasis on academic subjects and downplaying of vocational skills.

Because the Government has still not accepted the need to abandon the discredited SATs those who teach English, maths and science - the core subjects - will not get the same flexibility over the detail of what they teach.

What we really need is a national curriculum which specifies the wide range of skills pupils need to lead successful lives, and leaves the detail of the exact content to be decided by their school and teachers.

Curriculum to be 'more flexible'
12 Jul 07 |  Education
How will flexible curriculum work?
05 Feb 07 |  Education

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