England’s National Curriculum misses the point

21 April 2010

Today’s National Curriculum is just an attempt to keep competing lobby groups happy and has lost its educational integrity, according to a top academic.

Tim Oates, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development at Cambridge Assessment, said: "In the successive revisions of the National Curriculum since the 90s, there appears to have been a strong emphasis on keeping interest groups happy rather than developing well-theorised content - sadly a tendency which is an enduring feature of the English education system."

In his recent paper, titled England's National Curriculum - is it missing the point?, Tim Oates explains why Cambridge Assessment is so concerned about the current direction of this sort of policy.

"It is imperative that students have the fundamentals to progress into higher education, into society and into the labour market. Yet some of the contemporary criticisms of schooling and of qualifications is that young people can succeed relatively well in education by picking up discrete parts of knowledge, without gaining a real framework of knowledge.

"We believe a curriculum should provide a clear statement of concepts that children need to grasp, a clear framework for teaching, and be well-grounded in what we know constitutes good education. It should not be about squeezing in contemporary concepts*.

"The National Curriculum is, and should be, highly prescriptive in terms of fundamental concepts. However, it's the professional role of the teacher to be able to turn this list of concepts into motivating activities and into a motivating curriculum in the classroom."

Read Tim's paper and watch the interview.