How to walk the skills v knowledge tightrope

17th January 2014 at 00:00

Curriculum development involves a careful balancing act, not least between knowledge and skills. It was interesting, then, to read Tom Bennett's article "I know therefore I can" (Feature, 10 January) and discover his take on this debate at a time when the new curriculum requirements are pushing their way to the forefront of most school leaders' minds. In line with his stance, I feel it is misguided to suggest that there is a tension between skills and knowledge and their place within the curriculum.

Having worked with many schools on designing curricula, both in the UK and internationally, I have observed an almost universal desire to provide a "broad and balanced curriculum". Schools seek to ensure both rigour and flexibility, to fuse prescribed content with creativity and to carefully balance the teaching of skills alongside concepts. Problems arise when the focus is too much on one aspect to the detriment of the other - an accusation that has been levelled at education secretary for England Michael Gove's new curriculum, perceived as it is to be putting too little emphasis on skills and far too much focus on knowledge.

Learning needs to be balanced, just like a see-saw. Experience shows that this can best be achieved by providing opportunities for knowledge application through skills. Any school looking to develop a truly relevant and experiential curriculum that goes further than simply core knowledge must give equal weighting to both sides.

Elaine Sutton, Creative director, Dimensions Curriculum.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today