Teachers fear reform will become unwieldy;Curriculum 2000

10th September 1999 at 01:00
GOVERNMENT attempts to free up the timetable will get a mixed reception from teachers, a MORI analysis suggests.

Only half the teachers who responded to the official consultation on the new curriculum for 2000 believed it would be more manageable.

Teachers, unions and local authorities reported that the Government proposals had not been radical enough to create a curriculum they could handle, particularly in primary schools.

But one in three respondents was neutral, saying they needed to wait and see the effects of the new curriculum. Most critical were the 15 per cent who believed there would be too much content to cover from September 2000.

MORI researchers were commissioned by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to analyse how the profession responded to its proposals.

One of the most disappointing findings for the quango is that the 10-week consultation exercise produced only 3,180 responses, including 980 from individual teachers, 616 from schools, 172 parents and 90 education authorities.

Teachers were concerned that the new personal and social health education and citizenship lessons were going to be an extra burden but there had been no compensatory reduction in other areas of the curriculum.

Teaching unions argued that ministers could not expect schools to accommodate the extra content by lengthening the school day. Many cited the Office for Standards in Education report which found no clear relationship between the length of the taught week and the standards of pupils' work. But private-sector respondents told MORI that the idea deserved further investigation.

Despite the protests, the QCA recommended that no further content should be cut although it proposes to monitor how schools cope with the changes.

Primary teachers believe the new curriculum may contain extra flexibility but say they will need more training and guidance if they are to make the most of its opportunities, focus groups convened by MORI revealed.

OFSTED criticised the Government for demanding that schools be used across the new curriculum before many were properly equipped to do so. Its submission said: "The new requirement will make it difficult for schools, which are not yet adequately staffed and resourced, to do justice to IT capability as well as application in all subjects."

Only 46 per cent of respondents agreed that the Government's proposals to use computers across the primary curriculum were achievable, with 20 per cent disagreeing. Teachers balked at the prospect of new subject-specific requirements rather than being able to decide for themselves where it was appropriate.

The consultation also revealed dissatisfaction with plans for key stage 4. Education Secretary David Blunkett had refused to cut the number of compulsory subjects for 14 to 16-year-olds but asked the QCA to investigate other ways of increasing flexibility.

Respondents said his proposals could only achieve limited flexibility while others pointed to the apparent contradiction between a commitment to retaining all national curriculum subjects while encouraging schools to allow more 14 to 16-year-olds to opt out of the national curriculum.

* Government advisers are well on the way to developing a new coherent phase of education and training for 14 to 19-year-olds.

Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to investigate how the phase would operate earlier this year. The QCA is due to report its proposals to ministers by spring 2000.

The QCA admitted that its proposals for 14 to 16-year-olds in the review for 2000 had been an interim measure. It wants "the establishment of a clear rationale for new key stage 4 requirements, as an integral part of a coherent 14-19 phase of education and training."

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