Education Mar 8 2010

Prince Charles to rewrite national curriculum

Prince Charles and former Countdown presenter Carole Vorderman are to be drafted in to rewrite the national curriculum, according to the Shadow Schools Secretary. Interviewed by the Times last week, Michael Gove set out plans to ‘rewrite the whole thing’ shortly after a general election victory because, he claimed, most parents would prefer a ‘traditional education, with children sitting in rows, learning the kings and queens of England, the great works of literature, proper mental arithmetic and algebra by the age of 11’.

Knowing the mind of ‘most’ of the 13 million parents in this country is impossible, but one thing that seems to be  seeping into parental consciousness is the resentment many teachers and heads feel about too many government initiatives that bring with them mountains of bureaucracy and paperwork.

A complete rewrite of the national curriculum is the last thing schools need at the moment, Many teachers do currently manage to combine traditional and innovative teaching styles with love of their subjects and respect for knowedge which goes beyond simply rote learning of dates, which in themselves are fairly meanginless without a historical context. What often impedes that is the requirement to teach to tests and exams which determine their school’s league table position.

Many also understand that acquiring skills is also important, not least the process of learning how to learn, how to apply knowledge in different contexts and how to use ICT. Organisations like the RSA have done work on alternative curricula like Opening Minds, which is proving popular and successful in some schools.

Prince Charles’ Teaching Institute obviously does interesting work and is well respected. And Carol Vorderman, (whose third class degree in engineering would not qualify her to be a teacher under Tory proposals for all teachers to have a 2:1 degree) may well have views on education. But it is hard to see what qualifies them, or the many other ‘great and good’ figures ( such as the historian Simon Schama and novelist Martin Amis) named by Gove, to know more about what makes a stimulating and engaging lesson than the many thousands of heads and teachers who are delivering them every day.

What this interview really tells us is that the Conservative government has every intention of interfering directly from the centre in how our schools are run, and fundamentally mistrusts teachers, in much the same way as the Labour government has done,  to teach in the way they think best for their pupils.

Most parents probably want their children to learn skills and knowledge, in lessons that are engaging and enjoyable, in schools where education isn’t compromised by the perverse incentives of the league tables. The politicians should set clear aims for schools, that could include the social and moral purpose of education as well as ensuring literacy and numeracy in a broad and balanced curriculum, then back off and leave teaching to the professionals. Judging by the pre-election skirmishes, that is increasingly unlikely to happen.



4 Responses to “Prince Charles to rewrite national curriculum”

  1. mark says:

    I think Prince Charles is not the right person to be preaching on our education system. Whether it is Eton or Gordonstoun I think we have had enogh of the elite preaching to us.

  2. denis says:

    Experts on tell me that you have got it wrong on Cooperative Trusts and I quote as follows

    “The co-operative trust model may sound more inclusive, but also has a convoluted chain of command – a “council” made up of interested parties, which then appoints a trust, which then appoints a governing body. Note the word appoint – not much elected representation there.”

    Sorry, but she has it wrong. The governing body still exists as it was before and only agreed Trust representative governors are elected to the governing body, not the whole governing body elected by the Trust!

    I havent the time today to go into more detail but suffice to say that the Trust’s focus is on the buildings and land not school policy or the strategic work of the governing body.

  3. fmillar says:

    The DCSF guidance is very ambiguous then! However I am pretty sure that in trust schools the trust has a controlling interest and appoints a majority to the governing body ( similar to the VA model). So if a community school becomes a trust, the balance of power changes from elected parents/staff/LA/community governors to more appointed foundation or trust governors and fewer elected parents. Therefore the governing body can’t exist as it did before.

  4. Anna says:

    I agree with Mark.

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