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Where's the 2020 vision?

Contributor to Gilbert report blasts Government for stifling debate over the national curriculum

A MEMBER of the group appointed by the Government to set out a blueprint for the future of teaching has launched an outspoken attack on ministers for attempting to "stifle debate" on testing and the national curriculum.

Professor David Hargreaves, a Cambridge university academic and former chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, said he had been told there would never be a formal ministerial response to the 2020 report on personalised learning that he helped to write in a group headed by Christine Gilbert, now chief schools inspector.

"I believe this means ministers will pick up any recommendations that are compatible with their inclinations and preferences, and simply ignore the rest," he said.

At a seminar in London this week, he accused ministers of a "continuing obsession with the short term", "a desperate determination to make discredited policies work" and "wilful blindness to anything outside the Government's own narrow preoccupations".

He confirmed that, as The TES revealed earlier this month, the Government has not proceeded with reviews of the future of the national curriculum and innovation in education, which were called for in the Gilbert report in January.

There had been a "curious silence" from ministers following an initial "few polite references", Professor Hargreaves said. "They do not want there to be a debate and are very reluctant to do anything that might encourage one," he said. "Presumably for fear of what might emerge, both as criticism of the status quo and as ways forward that could well be incompatible with current policy."

He said it was vital that the Government followed the Gilbert report's call for a committee of headteachers, Ofsted and the QCA to report by September on how the national curriculum and tests could be altered to support personalised learning.

"I cannot identify a single head or teacher who thinks the present national curriculum and its associated assessment are fit for purpose and the right basis for teaching and learning in 2020," he said.

"Why are ministers afraid of listening to those concerns and ideas for what might be done for the next 10 years?

"For the Government to be convinced that only it has the right answer and to want to stifle debate is, I believe, more likely to exacerbate the problem and stimulate increasing dissatisfaction."

Sue Hackman, the chief adviser on school standards at the Department for Education and Skills, who attended the same seminar, denied the Government was ignoring the Gilbert review.

But, presented with a list of 14 of its main recommendations, she could only point to three - an Ofsted study into boys' achievements, more information for parents, and new progress targets - with which it was going ahead.

She said: "The DfES has a view on testing and the curriculum, and is developing it. I think we thought the time is not right (for a review) at the moment."

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