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A curriculum for our age

Young people are our most important national resource. What could be more important than the curriculum we choose to offer them?

This cannot remain static. If we are to prepare young people for the world they will inhabit, the curriculum must be responsive to changes in society, the nature of work and the impact of technology. As well as building on the best of the past, it must also address contemporary challenges such as sustainability and globalisation. It needs to equip young people with the skills for life such as literacy, numeracy and enterprise.

What should a curriculum for the 21st century be like? Over the past two years there has been extensive discussion about the priorities. Many of the issues identified are addressed in the new secondary curriculum framework.

This is an exciting moment. A high-quality national framework has been established: now schools have a unique chance to build a curriculum that reflects their local context and meets their learners' capabilities and aspirations.

The increased flexibility will mean more opportunity for teachers to provide support or challenge in lessons to stretch and motivate. There is an increased focus on skills for life, learning and work, and dimensions such as enterprise, healthy lifestyles and sustainability are addressed.

There is less prescribed subject content in the new programmes of study. Instead, the focus is on the key concepts and processes that underlie the discipline of each subject. The common format makes it easier to see links between subjects and to teach skills for life and learning.

A 21st-century curriculum is more than a set of content to cover: it is the entire planned learning experience, including lessons, the extended school day and activities that take place out of school.

Getting every child buzzing with the excitement of learning and developing as an active and responsible citizen will only be achieved if the curriculum is living and dynamic. Schools are being offered a framework that provides a national entitlement, builds on the best of the past, yet is flexible enough to be developed in ways that meet the needs of learners in the coming decades.

Gareth Mills is head of Curriculum Development at QCA

WHAT THE ZONE OFFERS YOU

* Andrew Russell, head-teacher of Wyvern Community College, sent his staff back to primary school for a day. His seminars explain how it helped them understand the changes facing young people. As a result, staff's ability to handle new arrivals improved dramatically.

* There is something for everyone in the 10 seminars, including subject focuses on design and technology, English, geography, PE, and the sciences.

* Gareth Mills (above), spells out the need for a reappraisal of what schools in the 21st century do. And Andrew Cushing, managing director of Tackle Sport, shows how advances in ICT are used to support PE.

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