Gove curriculum criticised by academics

Two university lecturers branded as being part of “bad academia” by the education secretary have denounced his proposals for the new National Curriculum.

Jon Berry, doctorate in education programme tutor at the University of Hertfordshire and Terry Wrigley, visiting professor at Leeds Metropolitan University, who were two of over 100 signatories of an open letter in March that denounced Mr Gove’s original proposals, believe the curriculum is a “regressive and meagre view of learning” that “sets up the majority of children to fail”.

Under the plans, state-school children as young as five will be expected to “understand what [computer] algorithms are” and recognise basic fractions in a curriculum which, according to Mr Gove, is designed to “raise standards across the board” and allow the country’s children to “compete in the global race”.

Yesterday’s announcement follows years of study of successful global curricula by Department for Education officials and a five-month public consultation period, during which Mr Gove said he had given “close and careful consideration” to submissions received.

But Dr Berry said the consultation had not been properly considered and 55 per cent of those taking part had thought the proposals were “narrow and too focussed on knowledge”. 

“There are a few concessions in terms of incorporating a slightly wider view of world history…but it’s still the same old diet of mechanical rote learning and facts to be regurgitated, partially digested, to feed the maw of the assessment monster,” Dr Berry said.

“Far from being the curriculum for the 21st century, this is a regressive and meagre view of learning, harking back to the 11+ and the grammar school system: a system that served a few so well and which branded so many as failures.”

Professor Wrigley said the new curriculum was a “box full of hurdles” that set attainment targets too high for young children.

“England’s children deserve better. They have to be protected from all this pressure. Whatever the problems of global economic competitiveness, primary education should not resemble a turkey farm preparing for Christmas.”

However, the new proposals did receive qualified support from some areas of the sector.

“Raising student outcomes and sustaining high standards in education is at the core of all school planning,” said Tanya Ovenden-Hope, head of the School of Social Science and Social Work at Plymouth University.

“The new national curriculum appears to provide more flexibility to teaching professionals for deciding how the curriculum is taught, which is good.

“The concern, however, is with the imposition of greater rigidity and control over what is to be taught, and the speed of implementing this change in the classroom.”

John Howson, visiting senior research fellow in the department of education at the University of Oxford, welcomed the re-introduction of computing into the primary sector and the recognition of the need to compete with other nations.

“We do need to do as well as other nations but should not expect too much too soon so as to put young children off learning,” he said.

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