Call for children's well-being to form bedrock of a new curriculum rather than being 'bolt-on'

11th September 2009 at 01:00
Government study argues for education to be built around tenets of Every Child Matters and the Children's Plan

A radical rewriting of the national curriculum is needed to take into account children's overall well-being as well as their academic attainment, according to research commissioned by the Government.

Academics from the University of London's Institute of Education say that if the wider goals of Every Child Matters (ECM) and the Children's Plan are to be achieved, the curriculum should be overhauled.

Professor Peter Moss said: "The question is, what would a curriculum look like that starts from ECM rather than a subject-based approach? ECM talks about achievement, but is also concerned with other issues such as safety and enjoyment."

Professor Moss's team compared the working between different kinds of professionals in extended schools in both England and Sweden.

Only work that took place during school hours was covered in the national curriculum in England, while the Swedish curriculum also applied to extended activities outside school as well as pre-school work.

Despite that, the Swedish document was a shorter, more broad-brush and basic framework that gave schools the freedom to interpret it as they wished.

Professor Moss accepted that subjects such as PSHE did broaden schooling beyond the academic but said they were "bolt-ons" rather than an integral part of the curriculum.

"If you take citizenship as an example, in Sweden it has not been added on, it was there from the start," he said. "The Swedes see democracy as a fundamental value that should permeate every aspect of education."

The key stage 3 curriculum in England has just been revised to include "cross-curriculum dimensions" such as identity and cultural diversity, healthy lifestyles, community participation and enterprise.

Professor Moss said this was a step in the right direction. But the researchers believe policy-makers need to consider exactly what education should be for before revising the curriculum, aiding joint working between professions in the process.

"A comprehensive curriculum, written in terms of children's wellbeing as well as their attainment, is called for if different professionals are to come to a common mind that bridges professional and agency differences," they conclude.

A DCSF spokesperson said: "We have introduced various measures to ensure that the curriculum takes into account a child's well-being as well as their attainment. We have also introduced extended schools to deliver a more rounded education."

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