18 years on, some people's thoughts turn to the revision or replacement of the 2002 Education Act. This is the act of parliament that still governs all schooling in England and it dates from 5 governments ago (although it has been amended once or twice).
I have no idea what is in the minds in the DfE, but the approach of Teach the Future is to ask for an over-arching piece of legislation that would keep the 2002 act in place, presumably unamended.
Others, such as SEEd see changing the act as important. What SEEd wants to do is to add a clause to section 78 of the act. This currently says:
Section 78 General requirements in relation to curriculum
(1) The curriculum for a maintained school or maintained nursery school satisfies the requirements of this section if it is a balanced and broadly based curriculum which—
– (a) promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and
– (b) prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.
The proposed new clause is:
– (c) instils an ethos and ability to care for oneself, others and the natural environment, now and in the future.
In some ways, the proposed new clause fits very well with the existing clause [b] in that they are both pretty vacuous. But [c] is so vague that DfE could stick it in and it would make no difference in that most schools would say "Doing that already". After all, a bit of PSHE here, an emphasis on empathy there, a litter picking rota, and an annual visit to a local care farm and the job would be done. Anyway – and being slightly picky – whilst you can instil an ethos, I don't see how you can do so for an ability.
But does the 2002 act need to be amended? Look at the Act's Section 80 Basic curriculum for every maintained school in England.
Part  of this says: "The curriculum for every maintained school in England shall comprise a basic curriculum which includes (there's stuff here about religious education or sex education) ...". Part  then says:
– (3) The Secretary of State may by order—
– (a) amend subsection (1) so as to add further requirements (otherwise than in relation to religious education or sex education),
– (c) amend any provision included in subsection (1) by virtue of paragraph (a) of this subsection.
That's to say, the Secretary of State could change the basic curriculum to cover, say, climate and ecological education by issuing an Order in Council. They could then provide guidance to schools along the lines of that recently provided by the New Zealand government (of which more later). They have, of course, been able to do this for the past 18 years ...