QCA sets its sights on the curriculum of the future

Top thinkers kick off national debate to move learning into the 21st century, writes Pete Roythorne

The Government's "embedding ICT" agenda has been boosted by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's initiative to drive developments in curriculum and assessment with the latest and best thinking.

The Futures programme, "Meeting the Challenge", is set to be unveiled at the BETT show in Olympia, London, next week. To stimulate a national debate, the QCA has commissioned a series of "think-pieces" from leading figures from education and industry. Contributors include Tim Brighouse, commissioner for London Schools, Cary Bazalgette, head of the education development unit at the British Film Institute, and Sir Anthony Greener, chairman of University for Industry and the QCA.

While the remit of Futures is extremely broad, it has obvious implications for schools' ICT. The programme kicks off at BETT with the announcement of the QCA's e-futures agenda.

"Learners only flourish if the curriculum is responsive to their needs and the needs of the time," said Gareth Mills, QCA head of futures and e-learning. "In the interests of learners we must develop a curriculum that is more responsive to the changing demands of life and work in the 21st century."

He added that the QCA is committed to harnessing technology for the benefit of all learners:"In the past few years we have seen massive investment in infrastructure, software and training," The time is ripe to develop curriculum, assessment and qualifications to ensure that e-learning and e-assessment are harnessed to enrich and extend learning opportunities."

News of the QCA initiative was welcomed by Dominic Savage, director general of the British Educational Suppliers Association (Besa), the organisation that represents most of the companies and organisations building and supplying materials for the new learning grids.

Besa's latest research (see right) indicated a "step change" in the adoption of ICT, he said, adding that infrastructure was not such an issue, and whiteboards had brought the use of ICT more into the classroom.

"For some teachers, this is overdue and they are clamouring to have a curriculum and assessment system that meets their aspirations for the benefits of ICT in the classroom," said Savage. "For those who are slightly behind that point it's perfect timing. It's great for them to feel part of a process that moves things forward."

During the year, the QCA will host a number of events to consider the implications of a modern curriculum. Gareth Mills said, "As part of it's e-futures agenda, the QCA will explore how curriculum and qualifications need to be modernised in the light of technological developments; modernise assessment from 3 to 90 and be a champion for e-assessment; and deploy technology to develop an examination and testing system fit for the 21st century."

"We will also launch a Futures website to provide a focal point for sharing thinking and engaging with a wider audience, and we will work with partners to identify and disseminate examples of innovation in curriculum design and delivery. The Futures debate will provide a backdrop against which the details of specific reform can be implemented." (QCA BETT stand Y36).


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