Curriculum Cock-Ups?

Teachers, school leaders and experts across the land have been only to keen to point out that the latest changes to the National Curriculum seem rushed. Only this week we saw the ATL survey showing that eight of ten teachers don’t feel they’ve had enough time to prepare for it.

What is becoming increasingly evident is just what an impact such a rush has. I present just three examples of what I consider to be cock-ups that should have been ironed out before the curriculum documentation reached its final stage.

Exhibit A

The first is my particular favourite. At first glance, the spelling requirements for Y5/6 English don’t seem too ridiculous, until you look more closely at the fifth and sixth bullet points:

dictionariesI have yet to find anyone who can rationally explain to me the difference between these two requirements. Clearly, the wording is different, but is it only me that feels that this is just an error where someone forgot to delete one example?


Exhibit B

Now, I’m no history expert, so I’ve been trying to pull together some history ‘Cheat Sheets’ to help both me and others with the new strands of the curriculum. The area which has presented most challenge has been the new Non-European Study section. By far the most popular option has been the study of the Mayan Civilization, but some schools – particularly those with many West African students, or with some expertise in the area – would reasonably opt for Benin. A quick glance at the Wikipedia article for the kingdom suggests that it was at its most significant from 1440, yet for some reason the National Curriculum proposes that we study an alternative period:

benin

This seems all the more strange when you consider that, as the Historical Association says: “Benin didn’t really exist in 900 AD” and that the most famous of historical artefacts from Benin – the Benin Bronzes – date from the twelfth century onwards, with the most significant falling in the fifteenth century, well outside the proposed period.

So what was the rationale behind the very precisely defined 900-1300 period? Just another cock-up?


Exhibit C

Given that the new curriculum is meant to be “the best which has been thought and said“, you’d think that plenty of experts would have been involved in the development of the programmes of study. And given the great interest in the content of the History curriculum, perhaps none moreso than in this subject. Yet it was here that I found a further error. Again, to the untrained eye nothing seems amiss with the third British History unit:

scots

However, the most precursory research into that second bullet point – about the Scots invasions – suggests that perhaps too few experts were involved. For some time now, there has been much doubt about the idea that the Scots ever “invaded” at all. In fact, it seems more likely that the Gaels on the Scottish west coast were part of the same group as those in Northern Ireland; there is no archaeological evidence for an invasion. It is, at best, a contested issue.

Interestingly, when I raised the point with Scottish historian, Mark Jardine, he described it as a classic “myth history in chronicles vs. history” debate, and “way, way too complex” for lower KS2!


Of course, it could be argued that these mistakes are not errors at all, just… unusual choices. But given the very short time period allowed for drafting, redrafting and publishing the curriculum, is it any surprise that errors slipped through? Doubtless there may be more in the Secondary subjects which I haven’t even begun to look at.

Can they seriously argue that this wasn’t rushed?

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8 thoughts on “Curriculum Cock-Ups?

  1. cazzypot2013 29 August 2014 at 4:37 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. dodiscimus 29 August 2014 at 8:25 pm Reply

    If it’s any help, there is absolutely no doubt that the GCSE subject content for combined science https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/gcse-combined-science was published with two definite errors in the physics equations. These were corrected the following day after being picked up by teachers. According to Dominic Cummings, this document was proofed by a Cambridge professor but the department somehow published the wrong version. If I’m feeling charitable I can forgive accidentally uploading an old version; what I find much less forgiveable is that the Cambridge professor is unknown and it’s not clear who else was involved in writing this document; the errors suggest maybe not very many science teachers or physicists.
    The primary NC errors raise an interesting question though – obviously an academy or free school can choose to study Benin in the correct period, but in theory a maintained school cannot. Perhaps you should get together with a respected west african historian and write some appropriate resources – money to be made I should think. On second thoughts, just use Wikepedia and make it up so you don’t have to split the royalties – the DfE seem to be promoting this ‘more rigorous’ approach to subject knowledge.

    • Michael Tidd 30 August 2014 at 2:44 pm Reply

      Fortunately, maintained schools can choose to cover the 900-1300 period in 30 minutes, and then teach the interesting bit anyway, having ticked off the statutory bit…but it’s still ridiculous to have in a statutory document so many foolish errors

  3. teachwell 14 July 2015 at 9:10 pm Reply

    I agree there are mistakes BUT it is a better curriculum than previous ones and with a clear eye to the academic. I introduced it in my last school and there are also objectives in computing. Still small errors – foolish though they may be – is better than a well written document which encourages dumbing down. Gove knew he had to get it through and get it through fast. That doesn’t mean that I think that accuracy isn’t important – just that if I were a politician trying to change the education system – I would have done the same!! (I have a background in political science hence the viewpoint)!

    • Michael Tidd 14 July 2015 at 9:11 pm Reply

      Sorry, but I disagree. a curriculum which statutorily describes nonsense is not acceptable.
      A rush is one thing; basic proofing is another.

      • teachwell 14 July 2015 at 10:15 pm Reply

        Please don’t let this mean you want a new new national curriculum!!!

        • Michael Tidd 14 July 2015 at 10:41 pm

          Haha! No. I generally quite like the curriculum. I just think more time should have been spent on planning it, constructing it and rolling it out. Then maybe it wouldn’t have been such a cock-up!

        • teachwell 14 July 2015 at 11:46 pm

          I agree – there was a load of sloppiness going on but I do think Gove was in attack mode and unfortunately the experience of creating committees for the 1988 national curriculum more than influenced his decision to write most of it himself. However, I hear you – how did some of this get past the proof readers!!

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