Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Initial thoughts: Response to National Curriculum Consultation

I am writing mainly about the key stage 3 science national curriculum, as this is the one I feel most qualified to talk about.

The responses below are not my responses to the consultation, just my thoughts and reflections.

Question 1: Do you have any comments on the proposed aims for the National Curriculum as a whole as set out in the framework document?

The aims are: 
Para 3.1 The National Curriculum provides pupils with an introduction to the core knowledge that they need to be educated citizens. It introduces pupils to the best that has been thought and said; and helps engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement. 
Para 3.2 The National Curriculum is just one element in the education of every child. There is time and space in the school day and in each week, term and year to range beyond the National Curriculum specifications. The National Curriculum provides an outline of core knowledge around which teachers can develop exciting and stimulating lessons.

I find these aims strange, to me they aren't the aims/outcomes of the curriculum, but rather the aims of the curriculum document.

It is interesting (although not surprising) that the aims of the proposed curriculum talk about the core knowledge and do not mention skills. I would have thought that you are not only taught knowledge in maths and english and would certainly shy away from teaching a knowledge-only science curriculum.

Although I don't like the phrase "it introduces pupils to the best that has been thought and said", I don't think that you can argue with it! I think that I am not happy with the word "best", it is subjective, what makes something the best? In science I suppose that isn't such an issue as we will teach the "accepted" science, which could be interpreted as the "best".

I am not convinced by the second paragraph as I don't see it as an "aim", or at least not the way that it is phrased. It seems to be more of a "note". I would also raise the question "if the national curriculum is just one element in the education of every child", then what is the rest?

Overall, I think these aims should be better: In January I attended the ASE conference and went to a lecture by Michael Reiss who said that the aim of education should be the flourishing of students, but at the moment the curriculum starts with the subjects. See: http://geordiescience.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/ase-conference-and-purpose-of-science.html I think it is something like this that should be the aims of the curriculum itself.

Question 2: Do you agree that instead of detailed subject-level aims we should free teachers to shape their own curriculum aims based on the content in the programmes of study?

This is an interesting question. I have addressed the aim of the curriculum in another blog post previously: http://geordiescience.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/what-is-science-education-for.html

The aims for science education in the ASE guide to secondary education are:

1. A grasp of the "big" ideas that enable active participation in decisions involving science and technology
2. A basic understanding of what science is, how it works and what are its strengths and limitations
3. The ability to continue learning

In the proposed National Curriculum the aims for science are:
These are more about the outcomes for the students, what they will learn.

I am very interested in question 2 and its implications.

Why would the aims of the science national curriculum restrict schools form being able to set their own aims? If there were no aims in the national curriculum for science would science departments (have to) make their own?

To be honest I don't think that the aims I have identified as the ones I would use and those in the national curriculum document are terribly different.

Question 3: Do you have any comments on the content set out in the draft programmes of study? 

Mmm - yes I do.

http://geordiescience.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/working-scientifically-proposed-2015.html (working scientifically)
http://geordiescience.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/proposed-changes-to-national-curriculum.html (bio)
http://geordiescience.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/proposed-changes-to-national-curriculum_7.html (chem)
http://geordiescience.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/proposed-changes-to-national-curriculum_592.html (phys)
http://geordiescience.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/energy-in-2015-national-curriculum.html (energy)

Question 4: Does the content set out in the draft programmes of study represent a sufficiently ambitious level of challenge for pupils at each key stage?

I think that there is enough scope in the key stage 3 science curriculum to stretch the most able. I am surprised that the atom hasn't made it into the chemistry element, but I am not sure if I am going to mention that in my feedback.

Question 5: Do you have any comments on the proposed wording of the attainment targets?

In every section of the proposed national curriculum the attainment targets are described as:

Attainment targets: By the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study.

I suppose it is the target for all the students to attain. It is interesting that the attainment targets mention skills and processes, when the aims for the national curriculum don't.

I knew that the levels were going to be removed, but I do wonder how attainment is going to be measured?

In school I can use the experience of using levels in the past and using SOLO taxonomy to rate the difficulty of concepts and structure a scheme of work that moves from uni and multi-structural to relational and extended abstract (where appropriate). However, not everyone will have that experience and knowledge to fall back on.

Question 6: Do you agree that the draft programmes of study provide for effective progression between the key stages?

As the 2015 proposed curriculum is very similar to the 1999 version, I would imagine that the answer to this is "yes" as I thought that the 1999 version of the national curriculum provided adequate progression.

Question 7: Do you agree that we should change the subject information and communication technology to computing, to reflect the content of the new programmes of study for this subject? 

I am not going to answer this question as I don't feel qualified to.

Question 8: Does the new National Curriculum embody an expectation of higher standards for all children?

In previous blog posts I have compared the science national curriculum to the 1999 national curriculum and I really don't think that it represents "harder" science. Except in the inclusion of the 2nd law of thermodynamics in physics.

Question 9: What impact - either positive or negative - will our proposals have on the 'protected characteristic' groups?

This is an interesting question. Having read the response by the Sex Education Forum http://www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/media/13078/sef_-_nc_response_25_march_2013.pdf It does concern me that vulnerable students may not get the information they need from the science curriculum to make informed choices. Particularly when it comes to sexual health and also when it comes to disease.

I think that the 2008 science programme of study was concise enough for schools to create a curriculum that met the needs of their students. However, as most schools will be trying to implement a science curriculum that prepares students for their key stage 4 studies, and I believe that what has been written isn't far from what most schools will be teaching currently.

Question 10: To what extent will the new National Curriculum make clear to parents what their children should be learning at each stage of their education?

I wonder if I can write that the energy section of the physics key stage 3 curriculum is confusing? And that the overlap between physics and chemistry would make it unclear to parents where students should learn about particles.

Question 11: What key factors will affect schools’ ability to implement the new National Curriculum successfully from September 2014?


Question 12: Who is best placed to support schools and/or develop resources that schools will need to teach the new National Curriculum?

ASE - am I biased? I am not going to write pearson, collins etc! Although a lot of the textbooks authors are ASE members! If Kieth Johnson wants to write another chapter of Physics for You because of the new national curriculum I would guess that it would support teachers. Unfortunately there is no network of support left in the LAs to support. I will not be writing "teaching schools" either. I would guess that if the DfE does want to support teachers they will allow people to bid to supply that support and the SLC would be well placed to bid, and then schools won't let staff out...

Question 13: Do you agree that we should amend the legislation to disapply the National Curriculum programmes of study, attainment targets and statutory assessment arrangements, as set out in section 12 of the consultation document?

At secondary level, it is vital that we maximise schools’ capacity to support and prepare pupils to succeed in more rigorous GCSEs. We therefore propose to disapply the current programmes of study for all subjects at Key Stage 3 (English, mathematics, science, art and design, citizenship, design and technology, geography, history, modern foreign languages, music and PE) and Key Stage 4 (English, mathematics, science, citizenship and PE) from September 2013. Disapplication would continue until the new programmes of study came into force for each subject for each year group. The ICT programmes of study have already been disapplied from September 2012.

I think that this is actually a good idea. It gives schools the change to fill the gaps with current year 7 students who will be doing the new gcses in 2015. 

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