Radical new look for the curriculum

3rd October 2003 at 01:00
The Education Minister has flagged up his disenchantment with the subject-based curriculum, as he announced the most significant review yet.

It will cover the entire 3-18 age range - much broader in scope than the Munn report of almost 30 years ago.

Peter Peacock confirmed last week that his review group would come up with "a draft outline of the underlying principles and framework for a 21st century curriculum". This will go out to consultation in the new year, to be followed by a review of the content based on the agreed principles.

Mr Peacock said he did not underestimate the difficulties the group would face in tackling "big questions", but he did expect the outcome to be "ground-breaking".

Unveiling his approach to an invited audience of key figures at the Scottish Education and Teaching with Technology (SETT) show in Glasgow last week, Mr Peacock raised the issue of whether there should be "less of a focus on subject-based knowledge and the acquisition of skills".

At a press conference later, Mr Peacock was notably lukewarm towards the subject-based curriculum. He said the key ingredient had to be ensuring that pupils were competent in literacy and numeracy. But the curriculum in general should also allow them to develop "a sense of place, insights into our development and interactions with the environment".

Pupils had to be encouraged to keep learning and to be adaptable.

Mr Peacock gave an assurance to Michael O'Neill, North Lanarkshire's director of education, that he did not want the results of the review to be merely an amended curriculum "slightly refreshed".

Mr O'Neill, and other key figures such as Keir Bloomer, chief executive and former education director in Clackmannanshire, who will be a member of the review group, are attracted to the broad strokes which characterise the Norwegian curriculum (see panel).

While Mr Peacock would not be drawn on that, he declared: "I am not ruling anything in or out. That is why we have set up a review."

His general principle is to develop "more flexibility and choice within the curriculum (and to) free up time for that choice".

Mr Peacock said: "The process will not be easy. The glib answer to almost every problem known to society is to teach it in the curriculum. Well, it can't be like that."

On the other hand, he made clear he wants the new-look curriculum to reflect the Scottish Executive's political commitments on enterprise education, environment education, citizenship education and parenting skills.

Among other issues he wants the review group to consider are the performance problems pupils face as they move from primary into secondary and, similarly, to improve the links between pre-school and P1.

Mr Peacock's plans were welcomed by a rare combination of teachers and employers. Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, endorsed what he saw as a move away from "the assessment-driven curriculum which has been distorting good classroom practice for too long".

The announcement also met with approval from Iain McMillan, chief executive of the Confederation of British Industry in Scotland, who is another member of the review team. Mr McMillan commented: "Education must, of course, be about developing the whole person to contribute to society as a good citizen."

The 17-strong review group will be chaired by Philip Rycroft, influential head of the schools group at the Scottish Executive who is also heading the teacher training review. The vice-chair will be Mike Baughan, chief executive of Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Other review group members include George MacBride, EIS education convener; Jim Anderson, director in Angus; Dick Staite, head of Beeslack High in Penicuik; Jean Campbell, head of Glendale primary in Glasgow; Graeme Hyslop, principal of Langside College in Glasgow; Judith Gillespie of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council; and Brian Boyd, reader in education at Strathclyde University.

Leader 26

Core vision

Norwegians see the core curriculum developing:

* the spiritual human being

* the creative human being

* the working human being

* the liberally educated human being

* the social human being

* the environmentally aware human being

* the integrated human being

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