A couple of weeks ago, I published a blog following an email discussion with the DfE which outlined the nonsensical situation that the cohort completing Key Stage 2 in 2015 will – according to current plans – be taught under the new National Curriculum for the year 2014-15, and then assessed against the old on in May 2015. That blog has been viewed over 2000 times, and was today reported in the Guardian Education Education in Brief column.
I had, in fact, tried to get clarity on this matter from the department several times. One of my emails, originally via the TES DfE page, has only now received a response, stating:
“Really sorry this isn’t answered yet. Legal team are involved!”
And that’s it.
And I got to wondering: would such a situation even be legal? Is that perhaps what is holding up the response? Has somebody at the DfE realised that directing schools to teach one Programme of Study, but then assessing another might not actually be legally permissible?
I’ve tried to plough through the detail of the Education Act 2002 (which as far as I can tell would be the relevant legislation) to find out more, and at first read section 87 of Part 6 which states:
In respect of the first, second and third key stages and (subject to section 86) the fourth key stage, the Secretary of State may by order specify in relation to each of the foundation subjects—
(a)such attainment targets,
(b)such programmes of study, and
(c)such assessment arrangements,
as he considers appropriate for that subject.
It seemed that maybe as Secretary of State, Mr Gove might have free rein over what to include in the curriculum and the tests regardless. However, on further investigation I noted that the opening paragraph of Part 6 defines assessment arrangements in the main key stages as:
the arrangements for assessing pupils in respect of that stage for the purpose of ascertaining what they have achieved in relation to the attainment targets for that stage;
So it would appear – to this untrained eye – that actually it may not be possible for the old assessment arrangements (based on the old attainment targets) to remain in place if a new statutory National Curriculum were to come into force, since they would no longer be ascertaining achievements in relation to the attainment targets (even with the new almost non-existent attainment targets!)
I wonder if maybe that’s why the DfE’s legal team are involved. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a way around this: I don’t think disapplication for another year would quite cut it.