National Curriculum Review Seminar

National Curriculum Review
Where now?
Andrew Pollard
Oxford, 8th August 2012
• Share an analysis of policy making
• Review some issues debated within the
Expert Panel
• Speculate about future strategies
Three contexts of policy making
Richard Bowe and Stephen Ball with Ann
Gold (1992) Reforming Education and
Changing Schools. London: Routledge
Three contexts of policy making
We approach policy as a discourse, constituted of
possibilities and impossibilities, tied to knowledge
on the one hand and practice on the other.
We see it as a set of claims about how the world
should and might be, a matter of the
`authoritative allocation of values'.
They are also, as we conceive it, essentially
Three contexts of policy making
We envisage three primary policy contexts,
each context consisting of a number of
arenas of action, some public, some
private. These are:
1.the context of influence
2.the context of text production
3.the context of practice
1. The context of influence
The context of influence
This is where policy discourses are constructed and
interested parties struggle to influence the
definition and social purposes of education, what
it means to be educated.
The private arenas of influence are based upon
social networks in and around the political
parties, in and around Government and in and
around the legislative process.
The context of influence
The formation of discourse is sometimes given
support, sometimes challenged, by wider claims
to influence in the public arenas of action,
particularly in and through the mass media.
In addition there are a set of more formal public
arenas; committees, national bodies,
representative groups which can be sites for the
articulation of influence.
The context of influence
It is important to be aware of the considerable
`capture' of influence by think tanks.
But it is also vital to appreciate the ebb and flow in
the fortunes of and the changes in personnel of
the DFE, and to recognize the increasing
`ministerialization' of policy initiation.
This contrasts starkly with the virtual exclusion of
union and local authority representatives from
arenas of influence and the modest contribution
from educational research.
Michael Gove, speech to the National College,
June 2010
• Unless we are guided by moral purpose in this coalition
government then we will squander the goodwill the British
people have, so generously, shown us.
• And the ethical imperative of our education policy is quite
simple - we have to make opportunity more equal. We
have to overcome the deep, historically entrenched,
factors which keep so many in poverty, which deprive so
many of the chance to shape their own destiny, which
have made us the sick man of Europe when it comes to
social mobility. ....
Michael Gove, speech to the National College,
June 2010
• And the success of other nations in harnessing their
intellectual capital is a function of their determination to
develop world-beating education systems. Across the
globe other nations are outpacing us - pulling ahead in
international comparisons, driving innovation, changing
their systems to give professionals more freedom to
grow, adapt, improve and learn from each other. ....
Michael Gove, speech to the
National College, June 2010
• I want to use the evidence from those jurisdictions with
the best-structured and most successful curricula – from
Massachusetts to the Pacific Rim – to inform our
curriculum development here.
• I want to remove everything unnecessary from a
curriculum that has been bent out of shape by the weight
of material dumped there for political purposes. I want to
prune the curriculum of over-prescriptive notions of how
to teach and how to timetable. Instead, I want to arrive at
a simple core, informed by the best international practice,
which can act as a benchmark against which schools can
measure themselves and parents ask meaningful and
informed questions about progress.
Nick Gibb, Reform conference,
July 2010
• ‘Knowledge is the basic building block for a
successful life. Without understanding the fundamental
concepts of maths or science, it is impossible to properly
comprehend huge areas of modern life. ...
• These concepts must be taught. And they must be taught
to everyone. Sadly, that is not always the case. ...
• E D Hirsch writes that ‘ early inequity in the
distribution of intellectual capital may be the single most
important source of avoidable justice in a free society’. It
is remedying that injustice that is the driving force behind
this Government’s education reforms.
Tim Oates
Could do Better: Using international comparisons
to refine the National Curriculum in England (Nov 2010)
Analysis of high performing systems, when treated with sophistication
and sensitivity, can be used for determining which content should be
placed where in a revised National Curriculum.
A well-defined and enhanced National Curriculum is a necessary but
insufficient condition for ensuring that the performance of the English
system approaches that of the leading nations – policy needs to be
formulated in respect of other ‘control factors’ such as teacher
expertise, teaching quality, learning materials and inspection.
A well-defined and enhanced National Curriculum – based on concepts,
principles, fundamental operations and key knowledge - can lead to
learning processes which are more focused on deep learning (fewer
topics pursued to greater depth), and to assessment processes of greater
validity and which have beneficial wash back into learning.
Tim Oates
Could do Better: Using international comparisons
to refine the National Curriculum in England (Nov 2010)
Understanding ‘Control Factors’
1 curriculum content
2 assessment and qualifications
4 inspection
5 pedagogy
6 professional development
7 institutional development
8 institutional forms and structures
10 funding
11 governance
12 accountability arrangements
13 selection and gate-keeping to university and the workplace
2. Context of policy text production
Context of policy text production
While influence is often related to the articulation of
narrow interests and dogmatic ideologies, policy
texts are normally articulated in the language of
general public good.
Their appeal is based upon claims to popular (and
populist) commonsense and political reason.
Policy texts therefore represent policy.
Context of policy text production
These representations can take various forms:
most obviously `official' legal texts and policy
documents; also formally and informally
produced commentaries which offer to `make
sense of' the `official' texts.
The media is important here; also the speeches by
and public performances of relevant politicians
and officials;
Context of policy text production
The texts which represent policy are not
necessarily internally coherent or clear. Policy
evolves in and through the texts that represent it,
texts have to be read in relation to the time and
the particular site of their production. They also
have to be read with and against one another.
The texts themselves are the outcome of struggle
and compromise. What is at stake are attempts
to control the meaning of policy through its
‘Progress’ by October 2011
1. The presentation of programmes of study and
attainment targets: We have advised that programmes
of study and attainment targets, and the roles that they
fulfil, should be distinct – and we understand that this will
now be implemented.
‘Progress’ by October 2011
2. Pupil progression: The proposal that schools,
particularly primary, should focus on maximising all
pupils’ mastery of the essential curriculum could
significantly reduce underachievement in the long-term.
We recognise that this is a significant change and
commend the efforts being made within the Department
to prepare specific proposals.
‘Progress’ by October 2011
3. Structure of Key Stage 2: This four year stage covers a
significant period of pupil development. National
Curriculum requirements and school provision can be
organised more appropriately if it is split into ‘Upper’ and
‘Lower’ Key Stages. We understand that this proposal
has been accepted.
‘Points of concern’ in October 2011
1. Educational aims:
Clear specification of educational aims has a place in lighttouch framing and accountability processes in a future
education system in which schools are both more
diverse and more autonomous. Such aims could
underpin coherence between the national, basic and
local elements of the school curriculum. If this potential is
to be realised, further work on the structure, content and
use of educational aims is now urgent.
‘Points of concern’ in October 2011
2. Subject knowledge: The Department has conducted an
exercise in international comparison to identify
‘essential’ and ‘powerful forms’ of knowledge and is in
a position to present this evidence in a public
consultation. Consultation with subject experts in English,
Mathematics and Science also took place during the
Spring and early Summer, leading to the production of
draft programmes of study. These have now been
replaced by texts produced by others. This process has
by-passed the Expert Panel as a whole and we are
therefore not in a position to endorse the outcomes.
‘Points of concern’ in October 2011
3. Curricular breadth: Although both statute and
international evidence support breadth, it appears
possible that the status of Music and Art in the primary
curriculum may be downgraded and that the lack of
statutory breadth in the secondary curriculum to age 16
will continue.
The major challenge of the curriculum review is how to
reduce over-loading whilst also maintaining breadth. We
believe that the solution lies in the rigorous identification
of ‘essential knowledge’ whilst leaving schools to decide
how to introduce this to pupils.
‘Points of concern’ in October 2011
4. Curricular constraint: Notwithstanding public
commitments to free teachers to exercise more
professional judgement, it now appears that the
curriculum of core subjects may be specified year-on-year
in primary rather than in key stages. In our view, this
would be far too prescriptive for all schools and
impractical to implement in small primary schools – of
which there are many.
‘Points of concern’ in October 2011
5. Oral language development: We have advised that oral
language development should be a significant strand
within the English programme of study though all key
stages and should build, in particular, on the provision
which has been recommended by Clare Tickell for the
Foundation Stage. However, practical work on this has
not taken place.
‘Points of concern’ in October 2011
6. Transitions: Very little attention has been paid to how to
achieve continuity of curricular and other learning
experiences for pupils – in particular, for those
progressing from the Early Years Foundation Stage into
Key Stage 1.
• You will be aware, of course, that most high performing
countries begin their formal schooling somewhat later
than we do (indeed, only 15% of all countries begin
formal schooling by the age of 5). International practice
thus suggests that we should consider how to extend
good practice from the EYFS into Key Stage 1.
‘Points of concern’ in October 2011
• 7. Pace and legitimacy: The National Curriculum Review
has been proceeding extremely quickly and has so far
largely been an internal process managed by the
Department. We have been concerned that the insights
from the consultation, to which thousands of stakeholders
contributed, appear to be treated lightly.
• Our perception is that the use of evidence has been
uneven and that progress at times has seemed erratic. In
summary, we are concerned for the perceived legitimacy
and quality of the review.
8. Principles for curriculum provision:
AP/MJ with Michael Gove, October 2011
Knowledge ---------------------
Cf: Alan Blyth (1984) ‘enabling curriculum’
3. The context of practice
The context of practice
Policies are textual interventions but they also carry
with them material constraints and possibilities.
The responses to these texts have `real'
The key point is that policy is not simply received
and implemented within this arena - rather it is
subject to interpretation and then `recreated'.
The context of practice
Practitioners do not confront policy texts as naive
readers, they come with histories, with
experience, with values and purposes of their
own, they have vested interests in the meaning of
policy. Policies will be interpreted differently as
the histories, experiences, values, purposes and
interests which make up any arena differ.
The simple point is that policy writers cannot control
the meanings of their texts. Parts of texts will be
rejected, ignored, deliberately misunderstood, etc.
Again, interpretation is a matter of struggle.
Blog: What about the pupils?
‘Prescriptive influence’ of Hirsch
‘Crude design’ for curriculum reform
Value of subject knowledge but ‘fatally
flawed’ without considering needs of
Year-on-year prescription in core, punitive
inspection and tough new tests at 11
Threat to breadth and balance
Who did what in writing the PoS?
Nick Seaton,
Campaign for Real Education
At this rate it will probably be a decade and a half
before the full benefits of any reforms (whether
effective or not) are felt in employment .
Can we afford to wait so long?
Fortunately, it is perfectly feasible for 2 or 3 good
primary/secondary teachers in each subject to produce,
within 4 weeks, a list of recommended content that
could (and should) be taught subject-by-subject each
year. Arguments and discussions about the detail can
be left until later.
Blog: What about the pupils?
‘Freedoms’ of the School Curriculum?
Needs of slower learners?
High expectations pitched to create failure?
Flexibility to meet children’s needs?
Education as the interaction between
knowledge and individual development –
facilitated by teachers.
Nick Seaton,
Campaign for Real Education
One further, vitally important step, is
required. The members of the Expert
Panel were almost certainly
recommended by DfE officials. The
education secretary should therefore call
the DFE’s permanent secretary into their
office and stipulate that, in future, any
perceived subversion of ministerial aims
or objectives by any DfE official will be
subject to disciplinary action.
The context of practice
The policy process is one of complexity. It is
often difficult, if not impossible, to control or
predict policy effects.
But different consequences do derive from
particular interpretations in action.
Practitioners will be influenced by the
discursive context within which policies
emerge. But the meanings of texts are rarely
unequivocal – and creative readings can
sometimes bring their own rewards.
So what now? Today
So what now? Today
Strategic resistance – a battle for
Who? Communication to build broad and
diverse alliances? (employers,
universities, parents, head and teacher
organisations, researchers, media)
What? Principled focus on key issues?
(breadth, oracy, opportunities, learning,
professional judgement?)
So what now? Today
Strategic resistance – a battle for
How? Collate and use evidence and
experience from UK and internationally?
Build on the distributed and embedded
strength of primary education to lobby MPs?
Organise and collaborate across ASPE,
NAPE, NPH, etc and the teacher
So what now? Tomorrow
So what now? Tomorrow
Frame the discourse for an alternative
Who? Maintain dialogue and alliances with
stakeholders and mediators?
What? Continue to refine evidenceinformed principles for an effective
system whilst retaining contextual
So what now? Tomorrow
Frame the discourse for an alternative
20 years back ....
A broad consensus in English primary schools has
emerged on the structural benefits of having a
national curriculum.
It is seen as providing for progression and
continuity and, with careful design, it is seen as a
potential source of coherence. Organisational
benefits for teacher training and supply,
continuous professional development, curriculum
development, parental participation, teacher
accountability and national monitoring of
educational standards are accepted.
20 years back ....
Unfortunately though, the introduction of the
National Curriculum into England was seriously
compromised because of the ways in which
professionally committed teachers were
alienated. Rather than providing a legislative
framework through which they could offer and
fulfill their professional commitment, the reforms
introduced constraint and regulation into almost
every area of teachers' work.
Yet it seems most unlikely that education standards
can rise without the whole-hearted commitment
of teachers, working to support pupils' learning.
20 years forward .....
Depressing in terms of English state policy?
But what is possible? Scotland is
encouraging as are many other countries
internationally. In England, many schools
provide principled, innovative and valuebased education.
Where now?
Hang on in there in principled and
evidence-informed ways, but
collaborate, organise and engage
for the long term
Promote a new, future-orientated
discourse for contemporary
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