The right to be flexible

4th February 2005 at 00:00
If I did not know Brian Boyd, and therefore disposed to tolerate his feeble witticisms, I would have said that, in his letter in last week's TES Scotland, he was resorting to the shabbiest of all debating tricks in seeking to invalidate my analysis of the report of the curriculum review group on the irrelevant and ad hominem grounds that I wrote a note of reservation to the Munn report in 1977.

He castigates me for not being alert to the political and educational context of the report.I naively assumed that any report worth its salt, as part of its rationale, would have set out clearly the political and educational matrix from which it sprang.

The reader of the report looks in vain for any such detailed analysis. That is one of the reasons for my claim that, as a contribution to the tradition of critical writing on the curriculum, it is a big disappointment.

Without being blind to the merits of the report, I doubted whether it represented much of an advance on Munn. The fact that the review group "was excited by the possibilities offered by the report" does not change my view.

To opt for "creativity, innovation and flexibility" is just to take a free ride on the swing of a pendulum. If these qualities are so crucial, why not get off the backs of schools and teachers and let them get on with it, without further meddling from anyone? However, the report is miles from adopting any such laissez-faire stance.

All that the review group has done here is to create the impression of having redrawn the line between choice and flexibility on the one hand and compulsion on the other.

Besides, the further curriculum planners move in the direction of flexibility, the greater the risk that what some might regard as essential elements of every pupil's education will be omitted.

Since the appearance of my article, I have been in email correspondence with a TESS reader who, as a teacher in Tasmania, asks the question: what recourse has the parent who believes that the very generality of the proposed curriculum objectives may lead a school, exercising its right to flexibility, to offer a curriculum that omits what he or she considers to be valuable and essential?

Apart from indicating something of the global reach of The TESS, that correspondence also suggests that I am not alone in having reservations about the review group's report.

Gordon Kirk. Broadgait. Gullane

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