Post-Covid curriculum - let's rip up the rule book

It has been an anxious time for everyone across education – so what are the concerns most prominent on lecturers' minds during England's second lockdown?
13th November 2020, 3:06pm
Karen Murdoch


Post-Covid curriculum - let's rip up the rule book
Colleges Should Take This Opportunity To Rip Up The Curriculum Rule Book, Says This Lecturer

At the beginning of this term, there was concern about a rush to return to the classroom. We were concerned about the future. We were concerned about how to manage a return that ensured future prospects. We questioned how we would manage the new normal. Would we forget the old normal? 

We knew we would separate desks and have smaller classes. But we were anxious about the journey to class - the actual journey as well as the metaphorical one. We needed to understand and trust in undertaking that journey, so that our purpose would not be as narrow as the corridors that took us there.

Would we learn from this? Would we fail - not only ourselves, but the children we stand before?

Need to know: Only half of hardship requests successful

Lockdown: How government wants FE to remain open

More: Transfer unspent apprenticeship funds to colleges, say AoC

I have heard academics say they have become administrators before they can be educators, all the while working tirelessly to keep up with the demands of a system at breaking point.  

Let us learn from that breaking point - let us mend it and then take lessons forward.  

The curriculum

I have heard lecturers say the restrictions to funding and ties to content-heavy curricula are an unbearable weight. The result is an academic currency that has little value in a pandemic.

There may have been students who did not engage during the time of isolation. There may have been varied and valid reasons for that and it may not have been down to a lack of technology in the home. What if it was the curriculum model itself?

With courage, we can tear up the old rule book and start over. With courage, we can create a new value to the currency of the further education we are delivering.

If we accept a new beginning, what skills should we value and seek to include in a new and enhanced FE curriculum? We will still have our core vocational subjects, that goes without saying, but we should also consider the skills that have been useful in these unprecedented times.

Our efforts in our kitchens led to a shortage in flour, our sewing and crafting resulted in facemasks fit for a catwalk. We practised resilience for our mental health and developed online skills to keep in touch when social meant distance. We read books, we drew pictures, we exercised, and we breathed. We witnessed and experienced compassion, kindness, and thoughtfulness in abundance.

Some of these qualities may be more difficult to teach, but we can teach that they are invaluable in difficult times.

The reflection

I have heard people say that Covid-19 and the lockdown have recreated history. But what about our future? We stopped when the world made us stop. We stopped and we reflected.  

We reflected on an economy built on buying "stuff", and on the drive towards employment: a prospect that now looks bleak, at least for some time.

We hope and pray that something like this will never happen again, but we do not and cannot know that. Spanish flu, SARS, Ebola and Covid-19 have shown us that it can.

The future

So, what now? The plan was to get back to education as soon as possible, and we did.

But as we progress through another lockdown, let us not step back into old ways. Let us reflect on what we have learned. If we have returned to a system that is simply a regurgitation of what we had before, we will have learned nothing.

While the medical profession continues to fight to save our lives, while the media and government continue to fight over what is best for us, we fight our own fight in education to learn from all of this.

We need to accept the new normal that we prepared for and worked towards. Let there be confidence and trust in lecturers to teach and deliver learning in a new and different way. 

Give us the time and the freedom to create a new curriculum that will be more useful and less tied to data that satisfies establishments but bears little purpose or relevance in a pandemic situation.

There is no getting back to normal. This is our normal. One where we need to feel safe and protected and where we can have the freedom to live and to learn again.

Let it not all have been for nothing.

Karen Murdoch is a travel and tourism lecturer at Lincoln College

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters