'Take off the shackles'

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
Exam chief says teachers should be allowed to teach maritime studies if they want to

TEACHERS CONTINUE to feel frustrated by restrictions in the national curriculum that dictate what they teach, according to the chief executive of the Welsh exam board the WJEC.

Gareth Pierce said he was often forced to tell teaching staff with innovative ideas to broaden their subject areas - and raise the interest of pupils - because it did not fit within the framework.

He gave the example of a headteacher who was passionate about teaching maritime studies covering the great seafaring history of the UK, but was refused.

Mr Pierce was addressing delegates at an NUT Cymru conference at Cardiff's Marriott hotel last week. He spoke specifically on supporting innovation in leadership at the conference, called Who Leads?

Proposals for a new-look draft curriculum, to be introduced in Wales in September 2008, has been largely welcomed by all but one education union in Wales.

The revised 12 subjects of the national curriculum, called orders, are generally seen as a positive step towards making learning more content-driven and giving pupils more choice.

Subjects have also been made more relevant to the 21st century. Some pupils might be exempt from reading full Shakespeare texts, for example, in English.

But Mr Pierce said: "The real concern is whether our curriculum is exciting enough. We need better resources that are more animated, but we also need to look at some of the restraints. Why am I saying to a teacher who really wants to teach maritime studies, sorry, you can't."

Phillp Dixon, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, stood alone in the consultation by saying pupils would still be bored by the curriculum.

He claimed it was still too pre-determined and subject-based.

During his presentation, Mr Pierce also backed moves towards online assessment and exams, saying computer-generated images would do more to stimulate exam candidates than textbooks ever could. He also said it would mean faster results.

Cardiff City chairman Peter Ridsdale attacked the present curriculum for failing to motivate.

TES Cymru reported last week (June 15 issue) how the businessman sided with teachers at the conference when he denounced the amount of paperwork teachers had to endure.

"If pupils do well at arts and sport, aren't they trying to tell us something about the curriculum?" he added.

Elsewhere at the conference, speakers were challenged over funding and "squandered cash".

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the NUT, said he could never accept that schools were funded adequately in Wales, despite remarks from the floor that it was just badly managed.

"We do a lot better in education in managing money than the NHS," he told delegates. "I simply do not accept that we have enough funding at present."

Earlier, Mr Sinnott had rejected moves that could see non-qualified teachers in line for headships and deputy posts.

David Evans, general secretary of the NUT Cymru, also held workshops for members to discuss the proposed development.

Steve Marshall, chief executive of the department for education, culture and the Welsh language, said high funding levels did not always equate to performance. He said research from other countries showed it was more about getting it right in the classroom and managing resources well.

Mr Pierce will expand on his views in his conference talk Leadership: Supporting Innovation in the comment section of TES Cymru soon

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