North East education bosses in warning over curriculum plans

Education Secretary Michael Gove yesterday announced a "rigorous and tough" curriculum, which has been described by Prime Minister David Cameron as a "revolution in education"

Education Secretary Michael Gove
Education Secretary Michael Gove

Teaching unions and school leaders from our region have warned changes being made to the national curriculum could cause "chaos in the classroom".

Education Secretary Michael Gove yesterday announced a “rigorous and tough” curriculum, which has been described by Prime Minister David Cameron as a “revolution in education”.

The new curriculum aims to enable our young people to compete academically with children around the world, whilst also focusing on new technologies and topics, such as climate change.

The new targets include expecting primary school pupils to be able to recite poetry by 11 and to learn their times tables, up to 12, by the age of nine.

However, North East education chiefs have expressed their concern over how the new curriculum has been devised and question how much Mr Gove listened to experts during the consultation.

Ian Grayon, the National Union of Teacher’s executive member for Tyne and Wear, said: “Over the last three years we have had change after change and what teachers would really benefit from now is a period of stability.

“It would have been better if the teachers had been consulted on the proposals and were given the opportunity to share their views.”

Dr Bernard Trafford, headmaster at Newcastle’s Royal Grammar School, suggests Mr Gove approached the reforms with his own agenda and ignored advice from the profession.

He said: “When you bring in experts, for example, to help to devise a history curriculum, and then alienate and side-line all of them by going your own wilful way, although you are not an expert: when you claim you want dialogue with unions and professional associations, and then constantly rubbish them and label any disagreement with you as mischievous and deliberately aiming for low standards; when you can’t even treat your own Parliamentary Select Committee with courtesy, but regard their searching questions as interference: then I think you’ve got a problem.

“Only, it’s not your problem. It’s a problem for the whole country. And we’re all suffering.”

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said the changes, to be introduced by autumn 2014, are shortsighted as they do not take into consideration how pupils will be assessed.

A regional spokesman said: “We still have no details of how the primary curriculum will be assessed and the Government is carrying out separate consultations on how young people should be assessed at ages 16 and 18.

“Michael Gove is risking total chaos in September, with schools unclear about what they need to be planning for.” Mr Gove defended the overhaul of the curriculum, saying concerns over its increased rigour only sells our children short.

He said: “I think that all students should be able to manage what we are asking the national curriculum to embody.

“I think it is a counsel of despair to say that there are five-year-olds who won’t be able to grapple with fractions.

“Five-year-olds can understand and use fractions in other countries, are we saying that there is something somehow invincibly different about English children which means that they can’t master and enjoy the sort of education that’s available to children in other countries?”

What teachers would really benefit from now is a period of stability

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