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Joining up the dots of subjects

May Sweeney identified the biggest challenge under the curriculum review as the linking of cross-curricular work, and is spending two weeks in Queensland, Australia, looking at how their schools do "rich tasks".

There were already examples of joined-up experiences in secondary schools but, in many cases, it depended on the goodwill of staff, the curriculum reformers have found. "The problem is that as soon as these staff move on, the work is not sustainable, so we need to organise this in such a way that it is sustainable," Mrs Sweeney said.

Another challenge was the intention to "declutter" the primary curriculum, and how much of the detail in the guidance was necessary or unnecessary for professional people to interpret.

Some groups of teachers had been asking themselves the question what personalisation and choice within the curriculum meant to them, Mrs Sweeney said.

"When you ask young people that question, they start to talk about life experiences and the immediate environment of their own learning situation.

They talk about their own scope for choice, they talk about choice of activity, experience and their roles within the classroom or school.

"In one secondary, pupils said teachers choose how to teach you and teachers choose their approaches. If you ask teachers, they think they have lost control over this, yet young people could say what these choices were.

"I asked heads, outside of choosing their subjects, where else there was choice in their school and 52 per cent didn't understand the question.

The previous week I had been with young people and they had understood it,"

she said.

Mrs Sweeney emphasised that subjects would have to make a wider contribution. "History is not coming out of the curriculum since there will always be a place for discrete subjects and specialisms," she said. "But all teachers and subjects can work together in such a way that they contribute to learning and other aspects of the school which helps make connections with their learning."

She added: "We ask young people to sit behind a desk for hours and then wonder why, at 13, they are demotivated."

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