Training burden for new primary curriculum falls on heads' shoulders

12th February 2010 at 00:00
Teachers left to own devices as QCDA says there will be no central strategy for 2011 overhaul

Heads will have sole responsibility for arranging the training they and their staff need for the new primary curriculum, which is due to be introduced in 2011, the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) has said.

The government body has revealed that there will be no central training strategy for teachers and heads to follow as they reorganise their schools and classrooms. Instead they will have to assess on their own what they need to follow the new structure.

Previous primary initiatives, such as the national literacy strategy, have seen training dictated centrally and then passed on to schools. But John Crookes, head of the primary curriculum programme at the QCDA, said that this will not be the case.

"Our job is to work with advisers in local authorities to make sure they have access to the right materials and support, but it is not about us training them and the training cascading down," he said. "There will be people to call on, a range of resources, but no script."

Training costs of the new curriculum are estimated to total #163;112 million in teacher cover alone. The curriculum, which is currently going through the process of becoming law, is based on the recommendations of Sir Jim Rose, former Ofsted director of primary education. He proposed that the current subject-based national curriculum be replaced with one structured into six areas of learning with six core skills.

The curriculum aims to give schools more flexibility in how they teach.

Educational consultant Richard Gerver, keynote speaker at a recent Education Leeds conference attended by heads and teachers from more than 100 city schools (see box), believes that getting heads together at events like could be an answer in the run-up to 2011.

"Events like the Leeds one are fantastic, really powerful and crucial," he said. "What needs to happen in all cases is for heads to make contact and have discussions.

The fact that the QCDA is not doing a centralised, controlled training scheme shows it is serious about wanting schools to address their own curriculum. It is very important, symbolically, for heads because it is the first time it has been done this way.

"But there is still a concern in some schools because individual heads are feeling more isolated than ever before as the local authority remit has changed and there is a loss of a one-to-one relationship with a traditional school advisor.

"People are really up for the new curriculum, but it is going to be time consuming, and some heads are concerned, they need help. They have the enthusiasm, commitment and drive but how do they find the time to do it properly?

"The government has to find ways of taking the administrative pressure off heads. If they don't get the time to lead it properly it will end up as just another of the hundreds of initiatives."

SCHOOLS NETWORK LEEDS THE WAY

"Dressing up as a Viking and eating Viking food helps children learn as much in one day as in half a term of ploughing through worksheets," said Kirsten Finley, head of Tranmere Park Primary in Leeds, where school trips include a visit to the Danelaw Centre for Living History near York.

The school, inspected one year ago, was found "outstanding" in all areas. Its curriculum was described as "responsive, inclusive and stimulating, and continually evolving".

Now Mrs Finley is one of the heads leading the move towards the new primary curriculum in the city. She is on the curriculum innovation group, along with Christine Halsall, head of primary school improvement at Education Leeds, and other advisors and heads, including Narinder Gill, head of Hunslet Moor Primary, who worked with Sir Jim Rose on the primary curriculum review. The group has created seven school networks to explore different aspects of the new curriculum.

Mrs Finley is co-ordinating the networks. "I think Leeds is quite proactive in terms of curriculum development," she said. "The networks in the city are looking at different aspects - ICT, arts, etc. The idea is that schools develop different aspects and then feed it back to the whole community.

"A lot of heads are doing the old 'watchful waiting' bit. We are preparing everybody for the next step. Generally, heads are welcoming about the creative curriculum. The days of the dictatorial National Strategies have passed."

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