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Aspects of a curriculum overhaul

I welcome the new key stage 3 curriculum, but two matters call for vigilance. First is the risk that new "flexibilities" will put an end to a broad-based education. I agree with your correspondents (TES, July 13) that "perhaps the best that can be hoped will be that secondaries reject a simple 'back to basics' drive". Schools should be places to inspire and challenge, and this should be so for all children whether they are being stretched or catching up.

My second concern relates to what pupils do in lessons. It is becoming a given orthodoxy that schools impart "skills", and it is now common to find educationists talking about "content-free" curricula and using a dominant language of "competences". This should worry us, for it is at the expense of knowledge and understanding.

I welcome the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's attempt to express the subjects in terms of key concepts. This encourages learning for understanding deeper learning, subject to disciplined frameworks and methods, which is what our information age needs more than ever before. But new flexibilities may again be taken as a short cut to quick-fix, integrated "foundation" courses in KS3. I am convinced that yet more numeracy and literacy, financial well-being and cooking will not help children to grapple with their futures with confidence if the humane subjects are pushed aside.

Dr David Lambert

Chief executive,

Geographical Association,

Sheffield

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