A cruise into calmer waters?

18th November 1994 at 00:00
Cathy Byrne forecasts distant storm clouds hovering over Sir Ron Dearing's report. What fantastic news. I can hardly believe it. The Dearing report is with us. And yes! Wow! They are going to leave it in place without changes for five whole years.

What a lucky profession we are. After only six years of constant national curriculum change and changes to the changes, of uncertainty as to what we should teach and how we should teach it; after only six years of the blind (the administrators) leading the partially sighted (the teachers) trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of assessment, differentiation, and the rest of the "new" paraphernalia; after only six years of being differently advised by different advisory teachers and then having to put the fruits of the different advice into practice, we now have five years without change. Phew.

So, while the past has been full of stormy seas with many taking to the lifeboats for early retirement or the sick list through stress-related illness, the future stretches out like a calm ocean. We might have time to wave to the accompanying dolphins or even have a dip in a shark-free lagoon.

Or not.

Picture this; we'll be given the Dearing proposals in the new format in January. Allowing for delays in getting vast quantities of paperwork to thousands of schools and the fact that we are up to our ears in planning the Spring term - including inspections for some of us - we can have digested and worked out the new implications by, say, Easter.

Management teams will have to be exceptionally quick off the mark if they are to include the Dearing implications in their development plans.

From Easter until July we'll have to work out how we are to change all our old staff, resources and planning to accommodate the new.

We will also have the pleasure of working out how to use our "free" 20 per cent of teaching time and what to do with all the material and expertise we have built up on the parts of the former national curriculum - such as the Stuarts at key stage 2 - which are now redundant.

Probably the wisest bet is to keep it all, just in case.

So it will be September before the waters are becalmed and the cruising effect felt.

Or not.

What will probably happen, come next autumn, is more chasing around for people in school because: * although it is possible to create a complete new human being, down to fingernails and eyelashes, in nine months, a mutation from old to new national curriculum takes the education system much longer; * the "blind" referred to above will only have had the proposals for the same length of time as the "partially sighted". They will need more months and several changes of mind before they decide how it should be done; * nothing goes according to plan; * the Dearing report tells us that such things as assessment, and recording should be done - but not how. These will be areas for constant review and change during the five year moratorium; * the Inspection Panic Factor will not go away.

Going by these facts of life, National Curriculum Mark 2 will take about a year if we are lucky, two if past experience is any guide to settle down. So then we can relax.

Or not.

There may be plain sailing for about a year, maybe 18 months for the fortunate. And what about the last two years of the five? The powers that be will start consulting on future change. Storm forces 10 will approach.

So much for the good news. The bad news is that all the points above don't allow for a change of government in the interim or, at the very least, several different Secretaries of State for Education. Even if they are not permitted to change the curriculum itself, you can bet your bottom deck quoit that winds will still blow and the boat won't stop rocking.

Bon voyage, mes amis.

Cathy Byrne is a primary teacher.

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