Earlier today Michael Gove finally released his vision for education with the new National Curriculum. We’ve heard rumours, we’ve read leaks, we’ve listened to whispers of gossip but until today that was all conjecture. Well no longer. If you want to see it follow the link below:
Reading this at lunch, if I am honest words failed me. I sat their open mouthed, I ranted for a while, I hit Twitter in anger, but a few hours later and I feel ready to respond.
Firstly, a brief summary.
A lot about historical skills has stayed. We still have cause and consequence, interpretation and significance. Students still need to know how evidence is used to make claims. But the word enquiry has a notable absence and on a personal level its sad there is no mention of sense of period.
However, the big change is with content. Where before we had a set of guidelines we now an exhaustive list of prescribed content. Interestingly content which pupils ‘should be taught’ not what pupils learn (NB: thanks to my boss Sal for pointing out this important wording). KS1 is heroes but the fun and games begin with KS2. From KS2 students should be taught the ‘essential chronology of Britain’s history’. KS2 teachers are required to fill in the story from the Stoneage to the end of the 17th century with KS3 teachers picking up the baton from the start of the 18th century to the present day. It’s the sheer scale of this list that is mind boggling. KS2 have a two page list including the Heptarchy (ok I admit I had to Google it) to Warwick the Kingmaker. KS3 beat this record though with a three page behemoth including highlights such as Adam Smith, the Elementary Education Act and Nkrumah (sorry I needed Google again).
We all knew we’d get a prescribed list of content but I think there has been a genuine sense of shock at the scale of this beast. This history new curriculum is genuinely (if it remains unchanged) a revolution in our practice. At secondary schools most schools will need to ditch half of their schemes of work as most of us teach the Middle Ages, the Tudors and the 17th century. We’re going to need to pretty much start from scratch with a lot of this material, much of which is not and never has been in the textbooks. Therefore the cost of this change is going to be ginormous. Even if you teach in an academy, like I do, and do not need to follow it the majority of primary schools have not yet converted so we’ll need to change to avoid cross overs with our feeder schools.
However, to me, the biggest impact is going to be on our primary teaching colleagues. How non-specialists are supposed to tackle this list and teach literacy and numeracy etc at the same time dumb-founds me. My Year 8s struggle with the concepts and complexities of the English Civil War and the subsequent Restoration – how are Year 5s supposed to be able to do this?
Importantly though this raises two questions:
1. Is this actually teachable?
2. Is this going to benefit our students?
Unfortunately, the the cynic in me says the answer to the two questions above is a firm no. We shall have to see.