Adapting to Curriculum Change @BETT


Live blogging -3pm

Curriculum Innovation in patnership – embracing the new challenges together

First talk: Mark Dawe, CEO, OCR

‘The curriculum should be driving assessment rather than the opposite’, Mark argues. Assessment should be derived from the needs of the learners. Education needs to be meaningful and prepare students for a place in society.

There is a need to use cutting edge technologies which are available for assessment of IT skills. Traditional paper-based exams are not the way to assess IT qualifications. Assessment needs to be relevant to the learning. There needs to be a virtual circle of curriculum, innovation and qualification, all feeding each other, and curriculum being the driver.

OCR is an NGO with partnershisp with a number of private companies. As a qualifications organisation the focus is on assessment, but OCR partners with organisations to provide training.

There has been lots of discussion whether A Levels are fit for purpose.The primary purpose of it is progressing through to the university. Lecturers need therefore to be satisfied with A levels to allow progression to the university. OCR helps creating a qualification framework to allow that. HE institutions are involved, and work has been done on it for the past 12 months. The primary goal is to assess gaps in understanding, in knowledge.

Mark then introduces the next generation of vocational qualifications: Cambridge Nationals (15-16 year olds) and Cambridge TEC (16-19 year olds), the latter having just been launched.

2nd talk: Tim Oates, National Curriculum Review, Chair

Increasing school autonomy: creating curriculum chaos or securing curriculum coherence?

Autonomy in relation to what? He asks, and then gives examples: curriculum, teaching approaches, funding etc. He argues that autonomy is not only an ideological argument; it is rather practical.

Locating the Curriculum

There is an issue about how we define curriculum. There is a tendency towards introspection in relation to curriculum in the UK. It is a concern that a national curriculum, instead of also looking at what is happening in other nations, is only looking inwards. A national curriculum is extremely important, curriculum coherence and control too. Subjects really matter, and the curriculum should provide good epistemic maps on subjects. Knowledge is a very strong predictor of performance. It is important that people understand key concepts in science for example. Knowledge really matters.

There has to be principles of inclusion in the curriculum, otherwise overload is the result of changes. There should be considerable detail on certain aspects of the curriculum, perhaps including more pages in the curriculum, that is, more detail in certain things, less in others.

He suggests the need for challenging models of progression in the first phase. There is a difference between the national curriculum and the school curriculum. The national curriculum should be a guide to the school curriculum. It is important some level of flexibility in this aspect.

Citizenship, creativity and innovation should be taught as well as a basic curriculum. In Japan they relaxed in terms of textbooks and standards went down. “There is no perfect education system, but optimal systems”.

Fewer things in greater depth – this is the stand out element for a new curriculum in primary education.

His full paper on the subject can be found here


The state and future of the UK education system @BETT Show


Live blogging 13:30 pm

Roundtable Discussion – The state and future of our education system

Participants: Russell Hobby, General Secretary NAHT, Mary Bousted, General Secretary, ATL, Martin Doel, ChieF Executive National Association of Colleges, Dale Basset, Research Director @Reform, Rachel Wolf, Founder, New Schools Network, Ian Budd, Chairman @ Association of Directors of Education in Wales

The discussion revolves around the need to qualify teachers and headteachers to effectively run schools (for example by joining MBA programs), and how institutions are accountable to the communities in an autonomous framework for education. The focus is therefore on giving responsibilities to individual institutions.

Concerns from councils are the performance of schools and whether there will be enough spaces for the pupils. In terms of accountability, Mary thinks that there is a need to make both parents and schools accountable for what happens in schools, as passing this responsability primarily to parents is no accountability at all. If the school is not performing well it is the role of local authorities to monitor it. Parents accountability must be only a part of it as it is not enough. She thinks that more autonomous schools will be harder to be monitored in relation to performance. In summary, she seems to be in favour of local authorities to perform this monitoring role.

Not all members in the panel agree with that, arguing that parents do care about the quality of education and would be able to report on bad schools quickly. Mary thinks parents may not know pedagogy well enough to perform the role of accountability solely. The panel suggested that accountability can also involve students, in college contexts, and that there should be in fact a network of accountability.

Bad performing schools are a main concern since local authorities do not seem to be doing their job well – the panel argues. The implementation of peer accountability (peer review) between institutions is a sytems suggested as a solution.

Vertical accountability versus horizontal accountability in terms of school performance seems to be what is necessary. They suggest that there needs to be a strong involvement with parents. There is no agreement in the panel however in relation to giving parents total freedom to choose the school for their children. It has been argued that choice needs to take place only when ‘informed choice’ is possible.

Question: What is the right balance between the autnomy of the teacher and the national curriculum?

The pane argues that research has shown that more flexibility in the curriculum is needed in some areas. It is important to think of motivation and progression when addressing this issue.

Comment from audience: The dept of education seems to be taking chaotic decisions and not to have a vision for education in Britain.

The panel feels there needs to be an open discussion about what the purpose of education is. A panel member thinks that there is inevitably some chaos in policy making, so schools need to be accountable for properly responding to what is requested of them. They also think the role of governing bodies remain essential.

Comment from audience: informal learning needs to taken into account in the discussion. Lots of learning have been done outside school, and the discussion in the panel revolved around curriculum and control. It has been argued that one of the schools’ role is to keep kids out of the street (Mary). The role of school goes beyond curriculum, she argues.

The session finished with an open question: why is it suggested that computer sciences studies is not for everyone? It could be argued that Romeo and Juliet is not either… (laughs).