The DfE's new model curriculum

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

They've been quietly planning to change the curriculum down in Sanctuary Buildings.  But this has nothing to do with climate or other environmental issues; far from it.  It's a change to something much more significant – history.  The government plans to radically shift the history curriculum away from Mr Gove's favoured "our island story" which I unfairly sum up in a footnote*

The DfE plan is to make history much more diverse and global.  A "new model history curriculum" is being drawn up to tackle issues such as migration and cultural change.  It will stop the urge to defenestrate statues, DfE ministers hope.

The Times quotes the Minister of State, Robin Walker:

"This is about the range of opportunities there are within the curriculum to teach world history and the relevance of that to modern Britain.  Do we want people to learn about the Tudors and the Second World War? Yes, absolutely.  But we want to do it in a context of understanding the world and understanding Britain’s place in the world.  I don’t think you can do that by [doing] what happened for quite a period of time in too many schools — focusing on 20th century European history again and again and again.  I want to see a well-sequenced and broad curriculum, building a common knowledge among students, both of the established canon of history but also a more global perspective.  If we can get that right, we will have something which is going to be relevant to more students.”

Walker said that the new model history curriculum would “re-emphasise the breadth and richness of what you can teach, how that helps to build a better understanding of history and the concepts and critical thinking you need to be able to engage in history”.

Just to be clear, this is not a change to the national curriculum; rather, it's a model curriculum.  This is a new term for an established idea.  It's really non-statuary guidance from the DfE for all schools.  Remember QCA's Schemes of Work? – that was non-statuary guidance.

The Times says that as such it can go into more detail than the national curriculum does and sets out what schools are advised to teach to reach the highest quality of lessons.  The national curriculum can be changed only through legislation but ministers can issue guidance (model curricula) as and when they see fit, subject only to scrutiny by the House of Commons education select committee.  Such a model curriculum was issued for music in 2021 (think more Beethoven fewer Beetles).

The National Curriculum, although statutory, isn't really a curriculum but a list of topics to be covered.  And it isn't a legal requirement in every school because of the existence of academies and independent schools.  I'm told by those who really understand such matters that, because the model curricula are not statutory, this means that they will have more of a signalling role to leadership teams about what they should be doing in their school curriculum.  Given Ofsted's current interest in the school curriculum (ie the national curriculum + everything else that goes on) through its new inspection framework it looks likely that how schools react to these models will be of interest to it.

So, you hear me wonder, why can't we have a model curriculum for environmental issues?   Maybe it's next on the list.  ... .  But of course it's not, as model curricula, it seems, only apply to subjects.  But what a failure of imagination; a bureaucracy stuck in its rut; doing only what it can and not what it should.


*  Given, as Denis Lawton reminded us, that curriculum is always a selection from culture, far as I can see, our Island Story – this Sceptred Isle – goes something like this ...

Building Stone (and other henges) / Romans invade and bash us / Vikings & Danes come to bash us as well / Alfred biffs back/ Harold the hero loses on penalties at Hastings / Normans bash us long and hard / Edward bashes the Welsh and Scots / Biffing the French at Agincourt / Tudor divorces / Gloriana scatters the Armada / Getting rid of the awful Stuarts / Biffing the Irish and the Scots (again) / Being sadly keen on slavery / Our invention of the Enlightenment and Industrial revolution / Bashing Napoleon / Abolishing the corn laws and slavery / Victoria Queen & Empress / Getting drawn into WW I / Depression, appeasement & Munich / Bashing the Nazis / Building Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land / Suez / Winning the World Cup / Joining the EU / Leaving the EU / ...


Lawton wrote:

"Curriculum is a selection from the culture of society of aspects which are so valuable that their survival is not left to chance, but is entrusted to teachers for expert transmission to the young."

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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