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Curriculum 'must be with ministers'

Control of the National Curriculum must not be taken away from ministers, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said today.

She told school leaders: "That must be decided by democratically elected representatives.

"Parents should be able to hold us to account for the decisions that we make about what their children are learning, or what they are not, and the best way they can do that is by the ballot box."

Mrs Morgan was addressing the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders which has proposed an independent commission for curriculum review, including school leaders, governors, teachers, parents and politicians, which would analyse the framework every five years.

Mrs Morgan told the conference in London that she agreed with many of the school leaders' ideas but could not agree with that one.

She praised their work and said a new Conservative government if elected would ensure that schools were funded "sufficiently, equitably and sustainably", and would be introducing a fair funding formula.

There were now one million more pupils in schools rated good or outstanding than in 2010, she said, and 90,000 more young people were taking core academic GCSEs that open doors to good jobs, an increase of 71% in just four years.

"The Prime Minister has made it very clear that the changes we have made need time to bed in and take root."

Mrs Morgan said there were variations in attainment around the country, such as between Trafford, for example, where results were better than in nearby Knowsley.

"That is deeply unfair," she said, telling the school leaders: "The priority for the next Conservative government will be to work with you to spread excellence across the system."

The union's general secretary, Brian Lightman, said after Mrs Morgan's speech that the issue of the curriculum was something that would need further discussion.

"Our proposal doesn't leave politicians out of it, it involves other people with a stake in education. The profession needs to have a clear input into it."

He said much needed to be clarified about funding.

"She said they would fund schools sufficiently, but the published figures don't show that.

"None of the political parties have pledged enough funding to prevent schools from falling off the financial cliff, which means they will have to make decisions which will have a detrimental effect on the quality of education they are providing."

Earlier, in his speech to the conference, Mr Lightman warned that it is currently impossible to tell how well England's education system is performing in terms of GCSE attainment.

Major changes to exams have made it difficult to compare results from year to year, Mr Lightman said.

He said it is important to acknowledge that England already has a good and improving education system, full of dedicated teachers and hard-working pupils.

But he added: "If we are to really understand how well our system is doing, we need clarity and stability so that our qualifications can be properly implemented and their currency understood. At the moment that is a real challenge.

"With so much change taking place in the qualifications system that results cannot be compared from year-to-year, with annual changes to the inspection framework, it is no surprise there are a range of interpretations depending on people's point of view."

He went on to say: "Hard though it is to believe, I am standing here and stating that we do not know how well our system is performing in terms of attainment in our qualifications for 16-year-olds and may not for some years to come. That has to be addressed.

"We will continue to work with awarding bodies and officials to help us get to a stage very rapidly when teachers, students, parents, employers and the Government know exactly what each grade means in terms of learning outcomes and how standards compare between years."

:: Mrs Morgan, asked after her speech about reported dissatisfaction in the NASUWT union that she will not attend its conference in Cardiff at Easter, said: "I will attend conferences and engage with unions who engage with me on a constructive basis, that's why I am here on a Saturday morning."


From Belfast Telegraph