Teachers and unions unhappy with Gove's new curriculum
Following stark opposition and criticism, Michael Gove announced the final draft of the new national curriculum for 5 to 16-year-olds today.
On 7 February 2013, the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove MP, launched a consultation on the new draft National Curriculum, the latest phase of a review that began in January 2011.
Today, Michael Gove unveiled his long-awaited revised and reformed national curriculum in England. However, the emphasis on a more traditional academic curriculum has provoked outrage.
Labour have criticised the new curriculum, arguing that the it should be written by experts, and not be influenced and steered by the ministers' "personal prejudices".
Commenting on the revised national curriculum for schools in England, Chris Keates, General Secretary for the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“The Secretary of State has again trotted out tired old and false assertions about England’s alleged slide down the international leagues tables as a justification for tearing up the qualifications and curriculum framework and pursuing his personal ideological crusade.”
The re-written curriculum, published earlier today, outlines changes across the curriculum, with the most notable in Maths and Design and Technology, following concerns about the draft syllabuses of the subjects.
As part of the new maths curriculum, students will be expected to advance faster; they will be expected to learn their twelve times table by the age of nine, and five-year olds will be expected to master basic fractions.
In secondary school, students will learn about 3D printing and robotics as part of their Design and Technology lessons. Following criticism, the revised syllabus focuses on industry skills, linking D&T with innovation and digital studies, rather than cooking and other domestic skills.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said the new curriculum would provide the "foundation for learning the vital advanced skills that universities and businesses desperately need - skills such as essay writing, problem-solving, mathematical modelling, and computer programming".
Other notable changes include those in History, English, Science and Computing.
Under the new curriculum, students as young as five will be expected to "understand what algorithms are" and to "create and debug simple programs". By the age of 11, pupils will have to "design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems". Grammar is the focus of the new English curriculum, the written proposal complaining that “most people read words more accurately than they spell them.” Word lists for 8 and 9 year olds include "medicine" and "knowledge", by 10 and 11 they should be spelling "accommodate" and "rhythm".
Despite earlier controversy, the new history curriculum emphasises English history – from the stone age through to the Norman Conquest. "Significant individuals" selected to be studied include Elizabeth 1st, Neil Armstrong, Rosa Parks and suffragette Emily Davison. Secondary schools will teach British history from 1066 to 1901, followed by Britain, Europe and world events from 1901, including the Holocaust and the "wartime leadership of Winston Churchill".
Science will shift towards a stronger sense of hard facts and "scientific knowledge". The new curriculum emphasises the need for all students to "work scientifically" and develop different modes of scientific enquiry. In primary school, new content has been introduced on the solar system and evolution. Following public protest, climate change will be taught in secondary schools, along with deeper, more detailed study of physics, biology and chemistry as separate disciplines.
However, academies and free schools will not be required to implement the new curriculum.
In response to the changes, an Assistant Headteacher from Bedfordshire criticised the proposals, arguing, “It seems very prescriptive within some subjects, history for example, and there is much more content to cover. This will mean less opportunity for in depth learning and less opportunity to engage pupils and promote real interest and passion for particular studies.”
The new national curriculum is to be used from September 2014. But teachers' unions say that is unrealistic, given the need to rewrite teaching plans and textbooks.
Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said Gove was expecting "an unprecedented amount of change" in schools, with the new curriculum on top of reforms to GCSEs, A-levels and vocational qualifications. "The timescale for implementation is far too compressed, with no indication that will be properly resourced," Courtney said.
The Prime Minister said: "The curriculum marks a new chapter in British education. From advanced fractions to computer coding to some of the greatest works of literature in the English language, this is a curriculum that is rigorous engaging and tough."
"As a parent this is exactly the kind of thing I want my children to be learning and as Prime Minister I know this revolution in education is critical for British prosperity in the decades to come. This is a curriculum to inspire a generation and it will educate the great British engineers scientists writers and thinkers of the future."