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The National Curriculum: What is the point?

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I am going to ask what may be a daft question, but what is the point of England’s National Curriculum? Maybe someone with some detailed knowledge of education can assist me, but it seems to have been rendered obsolete by the Government’s ever changing education policies.

National Curriculum, education, teaching, learning
What this child learns and her levels of attainment will depend on what kind of school she attends and where in the UK she studies so why bother with the National Curriculum?

You’re probably aware of this, but for those who don’t have school-aged children, the curriculum effectively dictates the programme of study for subjects such as English, mathematics, science, geography, history and so on. Just as importantly, it outlines what the levels of attainment should be. 

In theory, a child could attend a school in Newcastle and learn broadly the same subjects to the same level as someone attending a school in Penzance. It all seems to make common sense. The theory sounds great, but the reality is very different.

I was chatting to a dad of two young boys about this subject the other day and we had exactly the same thoughts. The way England’s education system presently operates, the National Curriculum is utterly pointless as so few schools follow it.

Independent, fee paying schools have never had to adhere to the National Curriculum. No surprises there, but increasing numbers of schools in England are being given a get out clause. I’m basically talking about academies which are simply under an obligation to teach English, maths and religious studies.

This isn’t some kind of policy idea you hear of in Westminster and Whitehall that hits the provinces with a gentle slap a few years later. If I look around my local area, many of the schools have already been turned into academies, sometimes in controversial circumstances and almost always in the face of fierce opposition from parents.

In addition to academies, free schools and some faith schools are under no obligation to follow the National Curriculum. It is a very odd situation.

One further point: the name has always been daft as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own education systems and follow their own curricula. For England to claim it has a National Curriculum is inaccurate and, all things considered, more than a little arrogant as England is one small part of a larger nation state. A more accurate name would be the English School Curriculum That Doesn’t Apply to Independent Schools, Academies, Free Schools and Some Faith Schools.

I have no issue with the National Curriculum being done away with, so long as there is something coherent in place to replace it. As the system presently stands, a child moving from that imaginary school in Newcastle to the one in Penzance might find there are few similarities between the education taught at the two, save for a vague promise English, maths and religious studies must be taught.

It strikes me the system is in need of desperate reform. Reform of education? Oh, hang on a minute…..

2 thoughts on “The National Curriculum: What is the point?”

  1. David Shaul - DadvWorld

    John, the education system is so far behind and in need of such a revamp, it’s part of the reason we home educate. Something that’s been largely the same for 150 years desperately needs looking at. The world is changing at such a fast rate yet our system remains the same. Great post:)

    1. I think there are pros and cons ot any education system. If, however, there isn’t some form of standardised curriculum then surely it is all a bit pointless? Teach what you like and sit whatever exams you wish!

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