Education International
Education International

UK: Revised curriculum fails to reflect student needs

published 16 July 2013 updated 23 July 2013

EI’s UK affiliates, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) have expressed concern about the revised national curriculum for state schools in England. The new curriculum, implemented by Education Secretary Michael Gove, is being introduced from September 2014.

The education unions warned that the timetable for implementation is dangerously short and unrealistic, given the need to rewrite teaching plans and textbooks.

NUT Deputy General Secretary Kevin Courtney said Mr Gove was expecting "an unprecedented amount of change" in schools with the new curriculum as well as other educational reforms. "The timescale for implementation is far too compressed, with no indication that it will be properly resourced," he stated.

Narrow curriculum In addition to this, the unions are concerned that the new curriculum fails to equip children and young people with the skills they need for today’s modern and ever-changing world.

“Apart from a bit of tinkering here and there, the national framework document fails to reflect any of the serious concerns from parents, teachers, employers and academics,” said NASUWT Deputy General Secretary and EI Executive Board member, Patrick Roach.  “It remains far too narrow, and has none of the breadth and balance that experts were demanding.”

Indeed, in a letter to The Independent newspaper, a group of 100 academics from UK universities including Nottingham, Leeds, Oxford and Bristol, described the proposed national curriculum as an “endless lists of spellings, facts and rules”.

“This mountain of data will not develop children’s ability to think, including problem-solving, critical understanding and creativity,” states the letter. “Much of it demands too much too young. This will put pressure on teachers to rely on rote learning without understanding.”

Not for all Mr Courtney also pointed out that not enough effort had been made to design a curriculum for lower-attaining children or children with special educational needs.

"Teachers have concerns about whether this curriculum is right for children with special educational needs, who form 20 per cent of the student population, and should not be an afterthought," he said.

Moreover, both NUT and NASUWT denounced that the national curriculum applies only to state schools in England. Academies and free schools can choose to ignore it.

“Adopting a new curriculum while allowing academies to opt out of it suggested an ulterior motive by the government,” Courtney said. "In particular, it is encouraging schools it sees as weak to convert to academies where the new curriculum will not apply.”

NUT General Secretary and ETUCE President Christine Blower stated: “Internationally, countries with the most successful outcomes are those that trust schools to determine their own curriculum and give teachers the freedom to teach it as they see best for their pupils. This is achieved by a good local comprehensive school for every child, not a system in which schools compete with each other.”