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Hunt: Labour will not tear up the new curriculum

Labour will not “indulge in massive curriculum reform” should it come to power after the next general election, the party’s education spokesman has said.

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said the profession needed some stability following four years of almost constant reform under the coalition.

Mr Hunt’s comments came in an interview with TES that will be published tomorrow, in which he criticised his opposite number, education secretary Michael Gove, claiming he had brought in “structural chaos” into the school system.

The MP for Stoke-on-Trent did signal his intention to undo some of Mr Gove’s changes, as he dismissed claims against him that he had failed to introduce any significant policies.

“This is the criticism I get, that what everyone wants is a big bang reform that will shake everything up and make your mark,” he says. “Actually, what do we know that works? It’s turning the dial on continuous professional development; making sure we have career structures and pathways that keep great teachers in the classroom and excited and keeping them motivated.

“We’re not going to indulge in massive curriculum reform, undoing what’s taken place. We need a bit of stability with the curriculum. There will be areas where we will make changes, such as the decoupling of AS- and A-levels. And we’re unhappy with the removal of levels – it’s a social justice issue, particularly for kids who move about a lot.”

The former TV historian also claimed Mr Gove’s reform agenda was faltering, highlighting the Conservative’s decision to introduce regional commissioners as a symptom of his academies and free-school programme not working.

“The wheels are coming off the Gove agenda,” Mr Hunt said. “His big philosophical push was to have a market economy in schools, and now he’s realised it’s not working so he’s introduced regional commissioners. The introduction of regional commissioners is an admission that his vision has not worked and it is a middle tier.

“He has admitted it’s failed and the solution he has come up with is not the answer. So his school policy is in a very fragile position.”

Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School in Suffolk, said less change would be welcome, but warned against leaving in place a system that was not working.

“People may feel no more reform was a good thing, but if it leaves us with a dog’s dinner of a curriculum then that is not so great,” Mr Barton said. “We are being told that Britain’s girls are the most obese in Europe and then our education secretary axes home economics as a GCSE. There are some things that will have to be undone.”

Read the full interview with Tristram Hunt in the 6 June edition of TES on your tablet or phone by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. 

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