National Curriculum: Teachers Welcome More Flexible Guidelines
Judith Judd, Education Editor, The Independent (London, England)
GOVERNMENT advisers yesterday announced a reduction of more than one- third in the number of pages in the national curriculum.
The new curriculum, prepared by Sir Ron Dearing, the Government's chief exams adviser, was drawn up after teachers boycotted testing in protest at the workload. The original 330 pages have been cut to 215; 996 detailed statements showing what each child could do have been replaced by 200 general descriptions.
Proposals for a canon of authors in English, big increases in the amount of British history and compulsory competitive games for all those aged 14 to 16 will meet stiff resistance from teachers.
But most teachers' unions cautiously welcomed the slimmer curriculum. About one day a week will be freed for teachers of 5- to 14-year-olds to use at their discretion, and more time will be released for older pupils to pursue vocational courses.
John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, said: "We are meeting the concerns of teachers for greater freedom and flexibility. This is a vote of confidence in their professionalism, which of course carries with it accountability."
Mr Patten is adding his own changes to those proposed by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA). He wants teachers of all subjects to correct pupils' written and spoken English and more emphasis on the need for five- to seven- year-olds to be taught British history.
He is also considering scrapping the top two levels of the 10-level scale on which pupils are graded, as the scale will no longer be used for assessing pupils beyond the age of 14. Bright pupils should take the GCSE exam early instead, he suggested.
Don Foster, the Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, said: "While I welcome what he has done so far, I hope that he will see fit to reduce the content across the board by 50 per cent."
Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Except for the proposal to make team games compulsory, which is plain silly, today's developments represent further solid achievement in slimming down both the statutory national curriculum and teachers' workloads. …