Bridget's new Model Curriculum

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I hear that Bridget Phillipson has plans for England's schools that go beyond trying to impose VAT on independent school fees and creating a significant exodus of students into the maintained sector.  The plan, it seems, is to make free schools and academies toe the line and follow the national curriculum.  Diversity and choice are being trumped by a love of conformity.  What exactly is to be gained by this is unclear until you also note that this isn’t going to be the national curriculum as we know it now, but Bridget’s preferred version which will resemble what is happening in Wales and what has already failed in Scotland.  Think an over-reliance on what learners bring to school and the promotion of hazy skills rather than exposure to Michael Young's powerful knowledge that can enable students to move beyond their own inevitably limited experiences.  Still, that’s what advisors (teacher unions and assorted activists) want.

So, more Curriculum for Excellence that a curriculum for genuine excellence for all young people.  A recent poll commissioned by the Sutton Trust, shows that the public already sees access to opportunity as very unequal.  Over 50% say that students from well-off families get better opportunities in pre-school education, in school, at universities, and in jobs, especially high status professions.  At the moment, over 30% of students in England don’t achieve a grade 4 in English and maths – what you need to move on to the next stage of education and training.  Inevitably, these students are disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds where they are, on average, 19 months behind their wealthier peers.  There are also huge regional variations. according to the Education Policy Institute, poorer students in the East Midlands, the Northeast, Yorkshire and the Southwest are about 21 months behind children from better off families.  Then there is the 20% of students persistently being absent, meaning they miss at least 10% of school time with about 150,000 children spending more time out of the classroom than in it.

All this should matter to every English politician.  One likely outcome of Bridget's plan is that England's PISA scores will fall back to the UK average, but that won't matter to activists who routinely dismiss such comparisons as neoliberal fluff.  But it will also mean that children from disadvantaged homes will not be helped at all.  Shouldn't everyone care about that whether you are motivated by helping the individual or the country?

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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