National Curriculum Review and EYFS revisions

Dec 23, 2011

Miles Berry

One might be forgiven for thinking that the week before Christmas is a good week to bury bad news at the DfE.

Monday saw the publication of the Expert Panel’s recommendations for how the National Curriculum is to be revised. The full document is worth a read. In relation to ICT, the experts propose that it remain a statutory requirement for schools to teach ICT, but feel that there shouldn’t be a statutory programme of study, thus leaving what ICT is taught to the discretion of individual head teachers. They treat D&T in similar fashion.

Despite their importance in balanced educational provision, we are not entirely persuaded of claims that design and technology, information and communication technology and citizenship have sufficient disciplinary coherence to be stated as discrete and separate National Curriculum ‘subjects’.

We recommend that…Information and communication technology is reclassified as part of the Basic Curriculum and requirements should be established so that it permeates all National Curriculum subjects. We have also noted the arguments, made by some respondents to the Call for Evidence, that there should be more widespread teaching of computer science in secondary schools. We recommend that this proposition is properly considered.

The notion that any technological education isn’t sufficiently important to have a minimum entitlement specified by Government is, I think, likely to prove divisive – there’ll be many pupils in schools which recognise the importance of technology skills, knowledge and understanding and thus provide a rich, challenging and creative curriculum encompassing all aspects of technology, but I think most of would expect far too many schools to leave pupils to a minimal digital literacy embedded across the ‘proper’ subjects. I suspect, if the proposals are accepted, we’ll see 10 sorts of schools: those that teach computing, and those that don’t.

The experts observe that respondents to the Call for Evidence suggested more teaching of computer science in secondary schools. I think that’s probably too late to get children excited about computing, and this might well result in perpetuating gender imbalance (see Emma Mulqueeny’s e-petition). It’s nice that the experts think this should be considered seriously; what a shame they didn’t. It’s also worth noting that of those responding to the Call for Evidence, 77% wanted statutory programmes of study for ICT.

On this occasion, I think it’s far from a foregone conclusion that the Secretary of State will accept the recommendations of the experts he appointed, as doing so might lay himself and a number of his cabinet colleagues open to charges of u-turns and hypocrisy; for example:

“One of the problems we have had is the ICT curriculum in the past has been written for a subject that is changing rapidly all the time, I think what we should have is computer science in the future, and how it fits into the curriculum is something that we need to talk to scientists, to experts in coding and to young people about.” (Gove, 1/12/11)

It will be interesting to see what findings emerge from the Royal Society’s deliberations on computing in schools, expected in January, and how Ministers react to these.

In other news, I see that the revised Early Learning Goals are now released for final consultation, and I think there’s a distinct watering down of ICT here too, from the former:

Find out about and identify the uses of everyday technology and use information and communication technology and programmable toys to support their learning.

to the proposed:

Technology: Children recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as homes and schools. They select and use technology for particular purposes.

I assume this means more than picking the right pencil.</div>