Monday 18 June 2012

Freedom, what freedom?

I recognise quite a lot of what was in the English and Maths curriculum materials issued by the Department for Education last week. They bore an uncanny resemblance to the documents that accompanied David Blunkett's national literacy and numeracy strategies in the late 90s. The expectations on spelling, grammar and punctuation were all there, as was a focus on mental arithmetic and times tables. So, the nonsense in the Tory press about this being the first time since the 1950s that schools had such expectations suggested that they were being even lazier than usual in accepting the line being spun by Michael Gove's spinners.

So far as I can see, all that is really new is that children, bizarrely in a decimal age, will have to learn their 12 times tables in case Britain abandons decimal currency in sympathy with a Greek return to the Drachma.

Equally, today's focus on synthetic phonics is not new either. Phonics were a part of the literacy strategy too, but the specific focus on synthetic phonics gained traction with Sir Jim Rose's report in 2005. This, too, was for a Labour government, for the benefit of confused Tory columnists. However, we didn't, it is true have the phonics screening check which seems to having some bizarre requirements.

So, I welcome quite a lot of this renewed rigour in the primary curriculum. I also think that most primary schools have been doing quite a lot of this, at least since the late 90s.

But I can't for the life of me see how it fits in with the philosophy of a government that insists it will set schools free. Is it any wonder that several members of the curriculum review have quit in the confusion?

1 comment:

Jimbo said...

As someone who was involved in implementing the National Strategies in the mid-Noughties...I couldn't agree more. But equally, as someone who has been involved in education fro over 30 years, most policy changes and 'innovations' follow a cyclical pattern.