The Government has run into trouble as its consultation on the revised national curriculum begins. Sarah Cassidy reports
The proposed new national curriculum is unworkable and overcrowded, say teachers' leaders while the Government's consultation process has been condemned as "cosmetic and bogus".
Subjects must be cut from the core curriculum to make room for new citizenship lessons, according to the unions. Citizenship is expected to swallow an additional 5 per cent of curriculum time.
They are also angry at the limited, tick-box consultation forms which, they say, have ruled out long responses.
Under the three-month consultation, parents, teachers, governors and students can complete a questionnaire to indicate if they agree with last week's proposals.
The unions are calling on all teachers to demand less Government prescription.
Peter Smith of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: "The Government runs the risk of grossly offending teachers who are willing to contribute constructively to the debate. There is a danger that teachers will feel manipulated and used rather than involved in this consultation. We need a consultation which will not be regarded as cosmetic and bogus."
Kay Driver, general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers, said: "We are concerned that much of what has been announced for consultation has already been decided as policy by carefully selected, unaccountable individuals behind closed doors and won't take into account the views of those actually at the sharp end of education."
John Bangs, the NUT's head of education, said the Government had rejected the chance to put greater trust in teachers. He said: "There is still far too much prescription. It is about time the Government started to trust schools to innovate in terms of the curriculum - new ideas do not have to come from the top down. You will only get enthusiasm in schools when good ideas are recognised and taken up by authorities."
The secondary curriculum was seriously overloaded, he said, while primaries should have been allowed to continue with the flexible timetable they currently enjoy.
He also criticised the consultation process, saying it would not allow "the genuine voices of teachers" to be heard.
Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "There are many fine thoughts and principles outlined in the review, but they cannot disguise a net increase in the demands of the national curriculum, particularly at key stages 3 and 4 in the secondary sector.
"The NASUWT will be insisting on compensatory reductions elsewhere if there are not other proposals to increase the number of teachers employed or to amend the appalling open-ended teachers' contract to provide an overall limit on demands that can be made."
John Dunford and David Hart, general secretaries of the heads' unions, are also concerned at the increasing demands on teachers.
Mr Hart said: "The National Association of Head Teachers strongly supports a broad and balanced curriculum, but is concerned at the amount of prescribed study the Government wishes to keep outside the core subjects.
"For all schools there is a grave danger of the Government trying to fit a quart into a pint pot. So many changes and initiatives are currently being introduced successfully by teachers under extreme pressure and subject to considerable overload."
Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said the proposals would continue to dumb down the teaching profession.
He said: "Many of the proposals in the draft document make good sense. However, there is a real danger of overcrowding the curriculum. We have consistently called for a minimum curriculum which would take up around 50 per cent of pupils' time giving teachers the freedom to be creative and inventive in their classrooms."
Consultation on the proposals is open to everyone. Copies of the proposals and questionnaire can be obtained at http:www.qca.org.uk or by telephoning 01787 884444. The consultation ends on July 23.