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.

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