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Camelot's knight and the curriculum lottery

Sir Ron Dearing's openness is to be commended. In his letter (TES, March 24), he virtually admits what many had suspected for some time, namely that one of the most ambitious requirements of the Education Reform Act - a progressive and continuous curriculum in each subject from the age of 5 to 16 - has effectively been scrapped.

He says that in order to release time there is now no requirement to teach a topic in detail and, if the teacher so wishes, an outline will suffice. Do the agencies setting the tests know this, and how can they construct tests which will allow recognition of pupils' achievements, for instance, in two schools one of which had covered a topic in depth, and the other only in outline? Unfortunately, past experience shows that when curriculum objectives are vaguely focused, the questions in the tests define the level and depth of coverage required.

If Sir Ron Dearing is referring only to the non-core subjects (but he does not say so) the problem is even greater.

Junior and secondary schools will receive pupils with wide variations in curriculum experience in history, geography and so on ranging from a superficial outline to a study in depth and varying from subject topic to topic. So much for continuity and progression.

The quest for the Dearing Day is beginning to resemble that for the Holy Grail so it is, perhaps, appropriate that a knight from Camelot is leading it, possibly with similar results.

Unfortunately, as far as continuity and progression from points of transition are concerned, these recent, well-meaning decisions will lead us back to the lottery we had pre-1988.

Let us hope that Camelot's millennium does not turn into the curriculum's Apocalypse.

T McSWEENEY

2 Mayville Drive

Manchester

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