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Last Updated: Monday, 5 February 2007, 16:30 GMT
How will flexible curriculum work?
The curriculum for 11 to 14 year olds looks set for further upheaval - becoming more flexible and relevant to today's students.

But how will it work on the ground?

A lithe young break-dancer wiggles his way around an auditorium filled with educational big-wigs.

The new curriculum is designed to keep pupils engaged

As he tries to express himself physically, other performers start to tie him up with string, binding his arms tightly by his sides.

The message in their movements? Let's shake off the curricular strait-jacket and allow students to express themselves.

"We are trying to move from an over-concern about the subject content to concern about the nature and impact of subjects," Qualifications and Curriculum Authority head of development Sue Horner explained.

Under the new curriculum, teachers will be challenged to be more responsive to their students.

No longer one-way performers to a captive audience, they will be required to play to different children's strengths - pitching lessons in a number of different ways.

Students have always evaluated or judged our lessons, but that's usually been in the playground
Kay Murphy

They will be accountable to their students and could even face intensive but constructive feedback sessions with pupils, as happens in Stratton Upper School, in Bedfordshire

Teacher Kay Murphy explains: "Students have always evaluated or judged our lessons, but that's usually been in the playground and we have not got to hear what they were saying."

This programme allows the student voice to be heard and their views to be used in a constructive way to improve teaching, she says.

The QCA also see traditional lesson blocks of 50 minutes changing as teaching becomes more flexible.

Subject boundaries will be blurred as themes and threads are followed through a range of disciplines, feeding into each other.

As one young pupil put it: "Now we can bring our art lessons into our English lessons."

The kind of joined up learning that the QCA wants to see is exemplified by a project at Pimlico School in central London.

Text books dumped

As 12-year-old Ebou explains: "We study crime and how to stop it but we do it in English lessons, in history, design and technology classes and citizenship.

"In technology we are making a burglar alarm that detects when someone robs a bank.

"In history we are learning about crime in the past and how it was punished.

"In citizenship we are doing group working about how to prevent it."

Head of citizenship at the school Marcus Bhargava explains how the theme of crime was chosen for this inventive cross-curricular project.

"The idea is that it is relevant to themselves in their own community.

"We wanted to look at something that would get the students interested and that would resonate with their community."

'Crime for kicks'

He added: "It's a very exciting approach because we are throwing away the old ways of the text book and now we are using a variety of different information communication technologies.

"We are getting the students to write blogs for example.

"In the citizenship part they will carry out a local investigation into youth offending in the area.

"They will be looking at evidence of your crime in their community and its impact."

And as an added bonus the youngsters will meet up with members of the local youth offending team who will, no doubt, be underlining the message that crime doesn't pay.

'Test of time'

And a deeper understanding of what motivates the criminal already seems to be getting across to the pupils

Twelve-year-old Rose says: "Punishment was worse before but there is more crime now.

"Before people did crimes to survive - now they do it just for fun. Most of the time they do it because they are bored or because they want to show they can get away with it."

So with all these text books being ripped up and art being done in English lessons, will students still be given an understanding of the basics?

The QCA's director of curriculum Mick Waters responds: "Ann Boleyn will still be be-headed, Trafalgar will still have taken place in 1805, the Pennines will still be the backbone of England, acid will still turn litmus paper red and Romeo will still love Juliet.

"These are things that have stood the test of time - they are things that our children need to know along with many others."

Curriculum for 'changing society'
05 Feb 07 |  Education

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