Reform of the national curriculum in England. Report of the consultation conducted February April 2013

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1 Reform of the national curriculum in England Report of the consultation conducted February April 2013 July

2 Contents Introduction 3 Overview of respondents 4 Summary of consultation responses 5 Aims of the national curriculum 5 Programmes of study and attainment targets 6 Replacing the ICT curriculum with a new computing curriculum 11 Impact of the new national curriculum equalities 12 Views from parents 13 Implementation of the new national curriculum 13 Phasing of implementation and disapplication of aspects of the national curriculum 14 Other comments 15 Next Steps 16 2

3 Introduction On 7 February 2013, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, launched a public consultation on the government s proposals for the reform of the national curriculum in England. This followed a review of the national curriculum which was launched in January 2011 with the following aims: to ensure that the new national curriculum embodies rigour and high standards and creates coherence in what is taught in schools to ensure that all children are taught the essential knowledge in the key subject disciplines beyond that core, to allow teachers greater freedom to use their professionalism and expertise to help all children realise their potential. The consultation sought views on the following proposals: changes to the programmes of study and attainment targets for all subjects and key stages (except for key stage 4 English, mathematics and science, on which there will be a separate consultation later this year) overarching and subject level aims for the new national curriculum replacing the ICT programme of study with a new computing programme of study the equalities impact of the reforms the implementation of the new national curriculum the disapplication of aspects of the existing national curriculum for a limited period from September 2013, to give schools greater flexibility to prepare to teach the new national curriculum. The consultation closed on 16 April 2013 and received over 17,000 written responses from a wide range of respondents including headteachers, teachers, teaching unions, colleges and universities, subject associations, local authorities, employers, parents and young people. Changing ICT to computing and disapplying aspects of the existing national curriculum from September 2013 On 3 May 2013, the government confirmed its intention to proceed with its proposal to replace the existing ICT curriculum with a new computing curriculum and to disapply aspects of the existing national curriculum from September 2013 to support the transition to the new curriculum. Consultation reports summarising the views expressed on each issue can be found here for ICT and here for disapplication. Consideration of consultation responses in relation to these proposals was prioritised to ensure that schools could be notified of the changes as soon as possible and start to benefit from the freedoms that will be afforded to them during the period of disapplication from the beginning of the 2013/14 academic year. A summary of those responses is included in this report for completeness. 3

4 Overview of respondents There were 17,312 responses to the national curriculum consultation document. Of these, over 12,700 related to campaigns in support of a range of issues including: teaching about climate change, conservation and the environment; schools trips; cycling safety; and lifesaving skills. A number of subject-specific campaigns were also identified in response to the draft programmes of study for citizenship, design and technology, history and physical education. Although the arguments presented have been considered as part of the consultation process, these responses have not been reflected in the statistical breakdown in this report. As some questions invited multiple responses, total percentages listed under any one question may exceed 100%. Throughout the report, percentages are expressed as a proportion of those answering each question (excluding campaign responses as above), and not as a proportion of all respondents. The organisational breakdown of respondents was as follows: Teacher 1,145 Primary school 832 Individual 757 Secondary school 440 Parent 282 Higher education 202 Local authority 138 Employer/Business sector 82 Subject association 82 Consultants 68 Heritage/museum/cultural 59 Academy 54 Young person 50 Further education 45 Organisation representing school teachers 43 Special school 27 Other Total respondents (non-campaign) 4,576 Campaign respondents 12,736 Total respondents 17,312 1 Those listed within the other category include: those respondents who did not specify a type; those who wanted to remain anonymous; charities; and training organisations. 4

5 Summary of consultation responses Aims of the national curriculum Question 1: Do you have any comments on the proposed aims for the national curriculum as a whole as set out in the framework document? There were 2,469 responses to this question. 465 (19%) respondents stated that they liked the aims. Respondents believed that the aims were sound and would allow schools and teachers greater freedom to create an appropriate and ambitious curriculum. 901 (36%) respondents believed that the aims of the national curriculum were too focused on knowledge and that there should be greater emphasis on the importance of skills. Some of these respondents raised the importance of ensuring that pupils are able to understand and apply their knowledge and emphasised the importance of the enjoyment of learning for all pupils. 458 (19%) respondents felt that the proposed aims were vague and that further clarification was needed. Some of these respondents felt that further guidance would be helpful, particularly on how much time the national curriculum should take to be delivered. Some respondents felt that there was a risk that some foundation subjects would be marginalised due to the amount of content and lack of guidance on teaching time. Question 2: Do you agree that instead of detailed subject level aims we should free teachers to shape their own curriculum aims based on the content in the programmes of study? There were 3,638 responses to this question Agree 1,616 (44%) Disagree 1,339 (37%) Not sure 683 (19%) Respondents who agreed with the proposal to remove subject level aims largely believed that it should be the role of teachers to define curriculum aims and were in favour of minimal central prescription. Others felt that the aims added little value to the programmes of study and should therefore be removed. Some respondents criticised the particular aims proposed or raised concerns that the subject content did not reflect the aims, rather than raising concerns of principle. Respondents who disagreed with the proposal and felt that subject level aims should be retained, believed that the aims would help schools, parents and pupils to understand the intended outcomes of the programmes of study and inform teaching and curriculum planning. Others wanted to retain subject aims to support consistency in curriculum planning and teaching across different schools and, in particular, to support progression from primary to secondary school and inform approaches to assessment. Of those responding in relation to one subject only (1,641), those responding in relation to design and technology (366) and history (437) made up 49% of responses. Respondents on 5

6 art and design, citizenship, design and technology, mathematics and physical education were more likely to disagree than agree that subject level aims should left to teachers to design. Respondents on English, geography, history and languages were the most likely to agree rather than disagree that subject level aims should be left to teachers. Some of the respondents who answered not sure believed that clear aims were necessary for core subjects 2 but were less essential for foundation 3 subjects. Others stated that although subject aims were not necessary, it was essential to have some guidance to provide greater clarity on subject content. There was also a concern that without further guidance some teachers, both inexperienced and experienced, could struggle to teach to the required standards. Programmes of study and attainment targets Question 3: Do you have any comments on the content set out in the draft programmes of study? There were 3,682 responses to this question. Art and design The brevity of the draft programmes of study was welcomed as it would give teachers greater freedom to innovate and inspire their pupils. Some respondents were pleased to see a renewed emphasis on the place of drawing in the curriculum content. Others advocated greater breadth and the inclusion of a broader range of art and design practice in the curriculum. Some respondents also referenced the importance of the creative and media industries to the nation s economy. Citizenship The inclusion of personal financial education in citizenship was welcomed but there was a desire to see this broadened out to include education about public spending. There was also support for more explicit references to teaching about human rights and international humanitarian law. Some respondents argued that this content should be covered in the national curriculum generally, whereas others argued it should be covered within citizenship specifically. Computing The inclusion of computer science and the programming content of the draft programmes of study were widely supported. Some respondents felt that there was insufficient coverage of wider elements of the subject, including digital skills, the application of technologies in business contexts and the impact of technologies on individuals and wider society. Others suggested that there should be more explicit reference to creativity across the curriculum 2 Core subjects are English, mathematics and science. 3 Foundation subjects are art and design, citizenship, computing, design and technology, geography, history, languages, music and PE. 6

7 content. Respondents largely welcomed the focus on e-safety in key stages 1 and 2, but some also called for the inclusion of e-safety at key stages 3 and 4. Design and technology Although some respondents welcomed the emphasis on food and cooking in the draft programmes of study and the broadening of content to areas like horticulture, other responses were more critical of the draft. Respondents commented that the proposals did not match the overall aspirations for the national curriculum and lacked intellectual and practical rigour. They expressed a desire for a greater focus on innovation and problem-solving and the use of more demanding modern technology and processes, and stronger links to mathematics and science. Respondents also suggested that activities such repair and maintenance were considered old-fashioned. English Respondents largely focused on the draft programmes of study for primary English. There was support for the recognition of the importance spoken language within the national curriculum framework document, but respondents called for greater emphasis through the inclusion of a discrete strand on speaking and listening within English specifically. Respondents welcomed the focus on developing a love of reading amongst pupils at primary level and at key stage 3. There was recognition that the teaching of phonics, punctuation, spelling and grammar was necessary, but some felt that there was an over-emphasis on these aspects. Some respondents also expressed a desire to see more explicit references to drama and called for it to have a separate programme of study. Geography The response to the draft programmes of study for geography was broadly positive, with many welcoming the increased rigour and focus on human, physical and locational geography. There were a number of campaigns supporting the explicit inclusion of climate change in the curriculum and arguing for greater coherence between the science and geography curricula in this respect. There was also a desire expressed for sustainability and conservation to be included in the geography curriculum, particularly in relation to caring for the environment at key stages 1 and 2. History History received the largest number of responses of all the national curriculum subjects. Respondents raised a range of issues which included a concern that teaching history chronologically would not allow teachers to revisit certain periods or consolidate learning effectively. Some of these respondents argued that if chronology was the preferred method of presentation then it should be reversed so that young children could start with more recent history which would be more relevant and accessible for them. It was noted, however, that the prescription of a very rigid chronological structure could be problematic for small rural schools with mixed age classes. Some respondents thought that there was too great a focus on British history. Others felt that there was too much content which could lead to superficial learning rather than promoting a deep understanding of history. Some respondents commented that the content was too 7

8 prescriptive and fact-focused, which might limit teachers ability to shape the curriculum to pupils needs and interests. A number of respondents also expressed concern about the likely impact of changing curriculum content at key stages 2 and 3 on the use of museums and heritage centres for school trips. Languages The introduction of languages at key stage 2 was widely welcomed, although many respondents argued for changes to the associated list of prescribed languages. These proposed changes included support for the inclusion of other languages such as Hebrew and Japanese, questions about the relevance of ancient languages, and the suggestion that schools should have a free choice of which language to teach. Mathematics The response to the draft programmes of study for mathematics was mixed. The aims and the greater focus on rigour and depth received widespread support, although there was concern that the draft content was too challenging for lower-achieving pupils. At primary, the greater emphasis on number was broadly welcomed, although there was concern among some that pupils could be accelerated through new content before they had established a secure understanding. Some respondents criticised the requirement for pupils to be taught efficient written methods of arithmetic. Some also felt that the content lacked sufficient focus on problem solving and mathematical reasoning. Others supported the use of calculators for children below the age of nine and a few respondents also questioned the inclusion of the twelve times table and Roman numerals. Music Responses to the draft music curriculum were broadly positive. Some respondents welcomed the brevity of the new curriculum, which was seen to give greater flexibility to teachers to be innovative in their classrooms. Others welcomed the new emphasis placed on music-making and the importance of pupils musicianship. Some respondents believed that there should be more references to creativity and to the place of music technology in the curriculum. Physical education (PE) Respondents were broadly supportive of the slimmed-down draft programmes of study for PE, which were seen to provide schools with greater freedom. They welcomed the focus on physical literacy at key stage 1, progressing to further skills development in a range of sports and activities at subsequent key stages. The inclusion of dance at key stages 1-3 was also welcomed. A number of respondents argued for the inclusion of leadership, coaching and officiating at secondary level and others for the inclusion of cycling in the curriculum. Some respondents commented that there was too great an emphasis on sports at the expense of teaching about healthy lifestyles. There was an almost even split, across all respondents who commented, on the question of whether the emphasis on competition was positive or negative. 8

9 Science There was support for significant aspects of the draft science programmes of study such as the stronger focus on the mathematical aspects of science, and the focus on subject knowledge and working scientifically. Some respondents were concerned about the volume of content and suggested it could lead to superficial teaching, limiting the amount of practical work undertaken by pupils rather than increasing rigour. A number of respondents also expressed a desire for the content of Earth science to be strengthened across the curriculum. Some stakeholders also commented on the coverage of sex education to suggest that the coverage within the programmes of study was insufficient, whilst others felt that it was too vague. Others suggested that evolution should not be included in the primary curriculum, on religious grounds. Question 4: Does the content set out in the draft programmes of study represent a sufficiently ambitious level of challenge for pupils at each key stage? There were 3,308 responses to this question. Sufficiently ambitious 738 (22%) Not sufficiently ambitious 1,276 (39%) Not sure 1,294 (39%) Respondents who agreed that the programmes of study were sufficiently ambitious were happy with the content set out in the draft. Respondents largely believed that the content was both achievable and sufficiently ambitious, but that teachers would need to be properly trained to be able to deliver it effectively. Some suggested that although the draft curriculum was sufficiently challenging, the challenge was based on the level of knowledge expected, and felt that there should be greater recognition of the value of understanding and skills. Respondents who considered the programmes of study not to be sufficiently ambitious felt that the proposed curriculum would not prepare pupils for the challenges of the 21st Century. Some of these respondents stated that the level of challenge could not be determined in foundation subjects due to insufficient detail in the programmes of study. Of those responding in relation to one subject only (1,560), those responding in relation to design and technology (358) and history (420) made up 50% of these responses. Respondents on computing, English, languages and mathematics were more likely to state that the content was sufficiently ambitious than not. Responses to subjects where this was least likely were art and design, citizenship, design and technology and music. A number of those who answered not sure felt that the programmes of study were likely to be too ambitious. Those respondents believed that the volume of curriculum content might result in superficial learning as teachers attempted to progress through the curriculum rather than enabling pupils to develop a deep understanding of the subject content. Others felt that the level of challenge was likely to be too great to enable all pupils to access the new curriculum and respond to pupils varying rates of progression. Question 5: Do you have any comments on the proposed wording of the attainment targets? There were 1,432 responses to this question. 9

10 739 (52%) respondents viewed the wording of the attainment targets as unclear and confusing. Many respondents also commented on the brevity of the attainment targets and felt that clarification would be needed to help schools to identify the standard and to ensure consistency in measuring pupil performance across schools. A number of respondents highlighted the interplay between curriculum and assessment and wanted to review the government s plans for primary assessment and accountability and for recognising the achievements of low attaining pupils and those pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities, in order to provide a considered response. Question 6: Do you agree that the draft programmes of study provide for effective progression between the key stages? There were 3,314 responses to this question. Agree 534 (16%) Disagree 2,018 (61%) Not sure 762 (23%) Some respondents felt that it was the responsibility of schools to deliver the curriculum effectively and to provide for progression between key stages for all pupils. Others raised issues in relation to the knowledge-based approach taken in the draft programmes of study and felt it was difficult to determine progression between the key stages without further clarity on the content and approach to assessment. Some respondents commented on the level of prescription and the importance of ensuring that pupils could progress effectively through the curriculum at their own pace - for example, ensuring that more able pupils were not held back and less able pupils received the support they needed to progress and achieve. Of those responding in relation to one subject only (1,556), respondents to design and technology (340) and history (455) made up 51% of the responses, with respondents in these subjects being the most likely to disagree that there was effective progression between key stages. 10

11 Replacing the ICT curriculum with a new computing curriculum Question 7: Do you agree that we should change the subject information and communication technology (ICT) to computing, to reflect the content of the new programmes of study 4? There were 2,687 responses to this question. Yes 1,019 (38%) No 958 (36%) Not sure 710 (26%) Respondents who agreed with this proposal believed that the change of subject name was necessary in order to move away from the bad reputation of ICT, to rebrand and improve the status of the subject, and to signal a change in content and ambition for schools, parents and pupils. Respondents who disagreed with the proposal argued that the term computing implied too narrow a focus. Some respondents suggested alternative subject names such as computing and information technology (IT) or simply IT to bring the subject label in line with industry terminology. Others expressed a preference to retain ICT as the subject name and did not see the need for change, suggesting that it may be confusing for schools and parents. Respondents who answered not sure expressed similar reasons to those who disagreed with the proposal and questioned whether the proposed subject name of computing was fully inclusive of all elements of the subject. Some respondents agreed that change was necessary but their reticence was in relation to the proposed content of the draft programmes of study rather than the term computing in itself. A small number of respondents stated that the subject name was irrelevant and that the focus should be on the curriculum content. 4 Following further cleansing of the data, the percentage of respondents answering yes to Question 7 has decreased by 1% and those answering no has increased by 1% compared to the figures published on 3 May

12 Impact of the new national curriculum equalities Question 8: Does the new national curriculum embody an expectation of higher standards for all children? There were 3,367 responses to this question. Yes 581 (17%) No 2,106 (63%) Not sure 680 (20%) Respondents who answered yes believed that the new national curriculum would embody higher standards for all pupils but did not provide further commentary. Many respondents who answered not sure, or felt that the new national curriculum did not embody higher standards, stated that they could not find evidence of higher standards as the documents were too broad and that it was not possible to compare the current and proposed curricula. Some respondents were concerned about whether some pupils such as those with SEN and disabilities would be able to reach the expected standards. Of those responding in relation to one subject only (1,537), those responding in relation to design and technology (345) and history (426) made up 50% of these responses, with respondents in these subjects along with art and design being the most likely to answer no rather than yes. Question 9: What impact - either positive or negative - will our proposals have on the protected characteristic groups? 5 There were 1,571 responses to this question. Responses were varied. Some respondents stated that it was too early to determine whether there would be a negative or positive impact on protected characteristic groups. Many respondents highlighted the good work already being done in schools to ensure that all pupils were able to succeed. 562 (36%) respondents felt that the proposals may impact negatively on pupils with English as an additional language. Reasons included the British nature of the curriculum, particularly in history, and the emphasis on grammar and spelling in the English programmes of study. The prescribed list of languages at key stage 2 was also raised as a potential issue. Those who commented felt that it was likely to exclude and undervalue those communities whose languages were not on the list. 444 (28%) respondents felt that the proposals may impact negatively on protected groups. Respondents raised the importance of curriculum flexibility to ensure that teachers had the space to tailor the curriculum to suit the individual needs of pupils. Some respondents felt that the content proposed was, in some cases, beyond the ability of pupils with SEN and disabilities, and cited the emphasis on computer programming and on speech and language in the draft programmes of study for English as examples. 5 The government invited views on the likely impact of the new national curriculum on equalities and on the protected characteristic groups which cover disability, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. 12

13 Views from parents Question 10: To what extent will the new national curriculum make clear to parents what their children should be learning at each stage of their education? There were 1,963 responses to this question. 824 (42%) respondents felt that the new national curriculum would enable parents to understand the curriculum content. Many of these respondents did however suggest that the curriculum would not provide a clear understanding of what levels of attainment or progress were expected, and stated that schools would need to play a key role in developing parents understanding. 543 (28%) respondents believed that the new national curriculum did not make the content any clearer than the current curriculum and some felt that the removal of levels and level descriptions may further hinder parents understanding. Implementation of the new national curriculum Question 11: What key factors will affect schools ability to implement the new national curriculum successfully from September 2014? There were 2,780 responses to this question. 1,782 (64%) respondents raised the need for funding for materials and resources to support the teaching of the new national curriculum. There was a concern that existing resources would become obsolete and replacing them would incur significant costs. 1,643 (59%) respondents felt that there was a need for staff training and continuing professional development to increase teachers confidence and capability in designing and delivering the new curriculum and to respond to the need for specific specialist skills (e.g. computing, language teaching). 1,651 (59%) respondents highlighted the need for schools to have sufficient time to plan for the new curriculum. Some stated that schools would need the final new national curriculum at the start of the coming academic year to enable them to prepare for teaching the new curriculum from September

14 Question 12: Who is best placed to support schools and/or develop resources that schools will need to teach the new national curriculum? There were 2,485 responses to this question 1,049 (42%) respondents felt that schools and teachers were best placed to lead the development of resources as they will be the primary users of the materials. Many teachers thought that it was vital that their experience was used to lead the implementation of these reforms. 21% of respondents advocated greater school to school collaboration to share best practice. Suggestions included encouraging secondary school specialist teachers to help train primary non-specialists, and greater partnership and engagement with further and higher education institutions and employers. 899 (36%) respondents felt that professional teaching associations and subject associations were best placed to support the delivery of the new national curriculum, particularly in view of their previous curriculum implementation experience and their role in supporting subject leadership at school level. 771 (31%) respondents felt that local authorities were a good source of support and were able to work directly with schools to support curriculum design and leadership. 325 (13%) respondents felt that the government was best placed to support these proposals through funding for resources from publishers or for teacher training. Publishers were also advocated as a good source of materials by some respondents. Phasing of implementation and disapplication of aspects of the national curriculum Question 13: Do you agree that we should amend the legislation to disapply the national curriculum programmes of study, attainment targets and statutory assessment arrangements, as set out [in the consultation document] 6? There were 2,451 responses to this question. Yes 604 (25%) No 982 (40%) Not sure 865 (35%) Respondents who agreed with the proposal believed that disapplication of the elements of the national curriculum set out in the consultation document would allow schools more time to prepare for the introduction of the new curriculum and that this was necessary for such a substantial change. They also felt that the freedom to teach what they wish in national curriculum subjects would allow schools to have the option of using their existing schemes of work or to introduce improvements which may be able to assist with the introduction of the new programmes of study. However, some of these respondents also suggested that disapplication should be for a longer period and implementation of the new curriculum should be phased in more gradually. 6 Following further cleansing of the data, the percentage of respondents answering yes to Question 13 has increased by 2%; those answering no has decreased by 3% and those not sure increased by 1% compared to the figures published on 3 May

15 Respondents who disagreed with the proposal expressed the view that this would lead to schools reducing teaching time for foundation subjects. There was also a view expressed that disapplying elements of the curriculum would lead to an increased argument for there being no prescribed curriculum in schools. It was also suggested that as schools had already planned their teaching for 2013/14, the propoal to disapply programmes of study at this point had come too late. Concerns were also raised as to how disapplication would be reflected in Ofsted s inspection process. In contrast with other consultation questions, only a small percentage of respondents went on to provide a rationale for their answer. Of those that did, the majority used this question to register concerns about the timetable of the implementation of the new national curriculum as a whole, rather than addressing the issue of disapplication specifically. Other comments Question 14: Do you have any other comments you would like to make about the proposals in this consultation? There were 1,680 responses to this question. 745 (44%) respondents who provided comments thought that the proposals should be developed further before being implemented. 394 (23%) respondents called for greater space for creativity within the national curriculum. Comments reflected a desire for more opportunities to develop pupils understanding and skills within what was considered to be a knowledge-based curriculum. 298 (18%) respondents felt that teachers should be consulted when implementing the new curriculum. Some respondents felt that teachers had not had sufficient involvement in the debate and were well placed to contribute and to shape delivery. Others commented on the need to trust and support teachers as professionals and to recognise the pressures that many schools face in relation to the accountability and assessment framework. 252 (15%) respondents raised the position of academies in relation to the national curriculum and suggested that the curriculum should not be considered national when academies were not required to follow it. 15

16 Next Steps The Department has published a response to the consultation findings which can be found here. We have also launched a consultation on the draft of the legislative Order required to bring the new national curriculum into effect for first teaching in all maintained schools from September The consultation document, draft Order and revised national curriculum framework document can be found here. 16

17 Crown copyright 2013 You may re-use this information (excluding logos) free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence. To view this licence, visit or Where we have identified any third party copyright information you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned. Any enquiries regarding this publication should be sent to us at This document is also available from our website at 17

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