The White Paper seeks "an excellent secondary education, built around the needs and aptitudes of the individual". Spot on. That same pupil-centred concern runs through the aims for the curriculum.
But how far does the paper live up to what it professes? It has plenty on the needs of the economy, but the needs of individuals take second place. It promises more for the gifted, not enough for the ordinary pupil. If the Government is sincere about pupil-centred aims, it should draw on them to reform the traditional curriculum. Most subjects still follow an apprenticeship model, suitable for those going on to science, geography or maths at higher stages, but not helpful in general education.
Governmental accountability in education has little to do with how well students do in tests. It is to be judged by the adequacy of its aims and how well the curriculum matches these. It has made a good start on the first. The White Paper should have begun to tackle the second.
Professor of Philosophy of Education
Institute of Education
University of London