There is no doubt that curriculum is the big issue in Edu-land at the moment. There are several blogs doing the rounds that focus on this issue in great detail and merit a read. After all, it’s really that important to get it right.
Below, I offer a slightly different take on this by focusing on the end first. Put simply, what kind of child do we want coming out of our school? If we articulate this first, then the curriculum can be written accordingly.
Of course, the DfE has tried to spell this out for us. It has a rather sinister phrase that fits in with their standardisation obsession, the phrase being ‘ready for the next stage of their education.’
For those leaving primary schools, it appears that this translates as having a score of 100+ in reading, writing and mathematics. A sort of matrix, but also a severe threshold. 100+ in all three and you’re ready. Pass on through lad, you’ve made it..
99 in Maths? Sorry, you ain’t ready, son.
I’m not sure if the children themselves are aware whether they’re ‘ready’ or not. Nor do I know whether it makes any difference to the secondary schools who welcome them six weeks later.
But it sure as hell makes a difference to their primary school teachers, their leaders and their parents. It suggests a failure. Now, this may of course be justified, but surely such vulgar classification can never be beneficial. It labels children far too young, making them expedient numbers in the effort to prove that ‘standards are improving.’
So how about this definition, something wider, hopeful, and more inclusive to pupils, especially those with special educational needs (currently one quarter of my school). I use the name Alex to allow the child to be viewed as gender-neutral.
Alex has just left us for secondary school after eight years at the school. Thanks to a growing independence and maturity towards learning, Alex is an interested and fluent reader, an expressive and creative writer, and has a curiosity for the natural world, for science, technology and mathematics.
Alex loves the arts, and has performed on several occasions confidently, whether music, dance, drama. Additionally, Alex has represented the school as a collaborative team player in sport or other outdoor pursuits, demonstrating resilience and perseverance. Within the wider school community, Alex has engaged regularly with other schools in the UK and across the world, and other organisations such as charities, therefore understanding the importance of service for the common good.
As a result, Alex is kind, considerate and sociable, with a respect for the natural environment and the people in it.
Alex is very well-equipped for the next stage of rest of the learning journey that lies ahead.
I am not saying that all pupils will excel in all these ambitions, but as an aspiration, surely it’s better than ‘get 100+ in a few one-off tests’. Crucially, in my opinion, it promotes gentle competition but strong collaboration. The current DfE iteration has it the other way around.
I am confident that the vast majority of secondary schools would welcome such children and be delighted to teach them. Their positive and mature disposition would allow lessons to flow. A grasp of the basic skills, by no means at Singaporean levels, would assist them with the more challenging concepts to come. Pupils would be confident, but not arrogant, young leaders imbued with an emerging sense of civic duty and respect for others.
As a parent too, this is the ‘readiness’ that I cherish for our children.
And from this agreed end point, we can track back and design an appropriate curriculum accordingly.