A case of overhauling, but under training?
Teachers will have to go it alone with the new curriculum
It is expected to be the most radical overhaul of the national curriculum since its introduction nearly a quarter of a century ago, ushering in a completely new approach to deciding what is taught in the classroom. But this week it emerged that there is unlikely to be any money to pay for training, or any official guidance to help teachers adapt to and thrive in the new climate.
The news came in an email, seen by TES, between subject associations involved in the curriculum review. “The consistent answer (from Government) has been that there will not be any non-statutory guidance or funded roll-out by the DfE (Department for Education),” the missive reads.
And a source later confirmed the picture. “It is a time of dearth. We have not got it (the money) as a state. We just don’t have it,” they warned.
Some experts welcome the fact that the Government is not planning to tell the profession how to teach a curriculum specifically designed to free teachers from centralised control. And there is a belief within the national curriculum review that a model that follows the health service might be more appropriate, with professionals organising much of their own training through representative bodies.
But heads’ leaders warn that without any extra money for training, the introduction of the stripped-down national curriculum from 2013 will be “seriously compromised”.
Subject associations are also concerned, pointing out that whole layers of support for teachers - including the National Strategies, local authority advisers and the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency - have already gone.
The last major overhaul of the national curriculum in 2007 saw the introduction of a revised key stage 3 curriculum, incorporating new “over- arching” themes designed to make it “relevant”. It was accompanied by regional conferences run by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) for three headteachers and a council officer from every local authority area, estimated to have cost £500,000.
The QCA also developed materials on its website and received more money to work on the curriculum with the various subject associations. It also had another pot of cash allocated directly by central government to provide further training for teachers.
This time round it seems that no financial support will be there. But this time there are no grand new concepts to understand, simply a stripped-down core of “essential” subject knowledge that must be taught, leaving teachers free to use their professional judgment for the rest of the curriculum.
Professor Mick Waters from Wolverhampton University, who introduced the 2007 change, said training for the new curriculum could be achieved within schools using existing training days if they stopped allocating them to subjects such as performance management and health and safety.
John Dunford is chair of the Whole Education campaign group. “You only need big money if you have a very centrally driven prescriptive system and the Government wants to tell people how to it,” he said. “But we are not in that world now. We have got to avoid the dead hand of curriculum change where somebody is ‘trained’ to go and deliver their greater freedom.”
Others are less convinced. Annette Smith, chief executive of the Association for Science Education, said: “You might want teachers to be creative. But if there has been prescription for every minute of the day for years, then you have to support them to be creative.” Tim Oates, who is leading the national curriculum review, has acknowledged that teacher training is an essential part of ensuring that the new curriculum produces the right results.
But the most serious warning for supporters of the new curriculum came from Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. He pointed out that many schools could simply ignore the reforms if there no financial support appeared. “A lot of secondaries are becoming academies (which are not legally obliged to follow the national curriculum) and there are now big questions about whether they will want to do this when they have acquired the freedom not to,” Mr Lightman said.
While the DfE refused to confirm the financial status of training - “the review will advise on what kind of support schools and teachers will need,” a spokesman said - it is a decision that may have major repercussions for the success of the review.
- Phase one (ongoing): deciding on the future status of the eight non-core subjects, the support needed by schools, and developing programmes of study in English, maths, science and PE
- Autumn this year: ministers consider recommendations
- Early 2012: public consultation on draft programmes of study for core subjects in time for teaching from September 2013
- Phase two: programmes for other subjects passed to ministers by autumn 2012, with public consultation in early 2013 and teaching from September 2014.