What can we expect of the DfE Strategy?

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

April 21st sees the launch of the DfE's Sustainability and Climate Change strategy.  This is an actual event at London's Natural History Museum.  The S of S will be talking, and I've had an invite.  What a treat; my train ticket is booked.

What, I wonder, can we expect of the Strategy?

Well, I shall be amazed if there is any commitment to changing the national curriculum or the 2002 Education Act.  DfE has held out against this for so long that it seems scarcely possible that it will stop now.  There is no hint in the draft that this will happen.  Anyway, it has what it thinks are good reasons for not doing anything as radical as this.

Page 9 of the draft does relate to curriculum, although only to resources.  There's a nifty flow chart which shows

action area  =>  activity  =>  outcome  =>  impact on young people

In the Climate Education action area, the plan is to "increase support, training and resources for teachers".  This will lead to "more teachers [having] practical ideas about how to include sustainability, climate change and nature in lessons".  And this, in turn will lead to "more young people [developing] greater knowledge of the facts".

This asserts a dispiritingly 19th century Gradgrind view (as told to Dickens) of the purpose of schools:

NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”

... and a somewhat patronising view of teacher imagination, but never mind; maybe they don't just mean facts ... .

The emphasis on curriculum resources is unmistakable and will it will surely happen.  Will these be for all subjects and for all teachers I wonder.  Well, why not?

But DfE famously doesn't do resources; nor does it endorse them.  And this long-established view will surely not change.  So what will happen?

It could leave it to the market and encourage a thousand resources to blossom; this wouldn't be a disastrous strategy as no week goes by without more and more resources becoming available.  But it won't be enough for a department wanting to be seen to do something.  DfE will surely do some commissioning – not of actual resources, but of some outfit(s) to create them.  This will likely be a hands-off arrangement.  But there will need to be a remit.  It's to be hoped that this goes well beyond facts and delivers what young people say they want.  It might be something akin to the Oak National Academy.

It seems likely that they will do the same for teacher professional development.  I would hope that the professional associations are already preparing their bids as sustainability-focused NGOs and Capita-like outfits certainly will be.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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