Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Schools warn of reforms 'chaos'

Education Secretary Michael Gove has been warned his curriculum reforms could cause 'total chaos' this September

Fresh fears have been raised about the pace of the Government's curriculum reforms as school leaders warned that pupils should not be treated like "guinea pigs in an educational laboratory".

Education Secretary Michael Gove is risking "total chaos" this September with schools unclear what they should be planning for amid major changes to the curriculum, exams and assessment, it was suggested.

The warnings come days before the Government is expected to publish the revised content of the new national curriculum for primary and secondary schools in England, which is due to be introduced in September 2014. It will see primary pupils taught British history from the Stone Age to the eve of the Norman Conquest and then the chronology of our "island story" from 1066 onwards once they get to secondary school, The Daily Telegraph reported.

It followed suggestions that requiring primary pupils to learn events right up to the Act of Union in 1707 was too much for young minds.

Draft details of the new national curriculum were published in February.

The history syllabus proved most controversial, and opinion on it quickly split. Those against the proposed syllabus argued that the plans are too narrow, prescriptive and would leave pupils without a decent understanding of the subject, while those for the new curriculum - which will teach historical topics in a chronological order - say it is long overdue and will give pupils an overall understanding of the subject.

Speaking at a conference in May, Mr Gove said the history curriculum was set to face ''a more extensive rewrite than any other''. He said that they want to keep the stress on chronology and narrative. But he added that the break between primary and secondary history was ''probably in the wrong place'' and that ''there should be room for a greater degree of depth of study''. It is also likely that the Government will seek to address concerns that the draft history syllabus focuses too heavily on British historical events by introducing more world history.

History as well as design and technology (D&T) are expected to undergo the biggest rewrites after experts and education leaders raised concerns about the draft syllabuses of these subjects.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said he understood that ministers had listened to points raised by the union and others about these subjects, and that he hoped to see revised programmes that are "more relevant to the skills and knowledge needed in the 21st century."

"Our biggest concern is with the timeframe and the lack of resources to prepare for such a major change," he said. "Pupils and teachers in 2014 are going to have to cope with new GCSEs, new A-levels, new vocational qualifications, new ways of tracking pupil progress once levels are abolished, on top of new curriculum content in all subjects. This is a massive change. So that the reforms don't disadvantage pupils, we need the Government to publish a fully developed implementation plan of how it is going to support schools to achieve all of this in 12 months. Our young people shouldn't be treated as guinea pigs in an educational laboratory."

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