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20 January, 2011

National Curriculum review summary: terms of reference and timeframe

The UK Government is reviewing the National Curriculum with the intention of ‘slimming it down' and concentrating its content on ‘essential knowledge'.

Citizenship is one of the subjects in danger of losing its place on the curriculum. But what is the review actually trying to achieve?

In brief

The Secretary of State for Education has appointed an Expert Panel, and an Advisory Committee to support the Panel, to conduct the review of the National Curriculum.

The Expert Panel, led by Tim Oates, will be responsible for ‘providing detailed advice on the construction and content of the new National Curriculum’. This involves recommending to the Government:

  • the essential knowledge (eg facts, concepts, principles and fundamental operations) that children need to be taught in order to progress and develop their understanding in English, mathematics, science, physical education and any other subjects which it is decided should be part of the National Curriculum, or alternatively have non-statutory programmes of study, in future.
  • for the subjects listed below, whether or not they should be part of the National Curriculum, with statutory Programmes of Study, at each key stage:[i]
    • art and design
    • citizenship
    • design and technology
    • geography
    • history
    • information and communication technology (ICT)
    • modern foreign languages (MFL)
    • music.

It will also consider ‘for any subjects which are not recommended to be part of the National Curriculum in future, whether there should be non-statutory programmes of study available for guidance at particular key stages and/or whether those subjects, or any aspects of them, should nevertheless be compulsory'.

Therefore, citizenship education - at the conclusion of the review - could:

  • Be a statutory subject in the National Curriculum;
  • Be compulsory, or have aspects of its content be compulsory, but not part of the National Curriculum;
  • Have a non-statutory programme of study from the DfE (ie guidance for schools who choose to teach it), but not compulsory in any way;
  • Have no statutory or compulsory status and no non-statutory DfE programme of study, leaving the teaching and content of the subject entirely up to schools.

What happens next

Democratic Life intends to submit evidence to the Expert Panel on the positive and unique contribution that citizenship education makes, including essential knowledge (about democracy, politics, the law and the economy) that must be taught and retained within the National Curriculum.

We call on all of our partner organisations and supporters to submit evidence to the review. We will be producing guidance on this shortly.

The review in detail

The Government is reviewing the National Curriculum with the intention of ‘slimming it down' and concentrating on the ‘essential knowledge' every student should learn, rather than ‘teaching method' (which is what Michael Gove claims the current curriculum focuses on).

According to the remit document published on the Department of Education's website, the principal objectives for the National Curriculum review are to:

  • give teachers greater professional freedom over how they organise and teach the curriculum;
  • develop a National Curriculum that acts as a benchmark for all schools and provides young people with the knowledge they need to move confidently and successfully through their education, taking into account the needs of different groups including the most able and pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND);
  • ensure that the content of our National Curriculum compares favourably with the most successful international curricula in the highest performing jurisdictions, reflecting the best collective wisdom we have about how children learn and what they should know;
  • set rigorous requirements for pupil attainment, which measure up to those in the highest performing jurisdictions in the world;
  • enable parents to understand what their children should be learning throughout their school career and therefore to support their education.[ii]

The Expert Panel, chaired by Tim Oates and made up of academics[iii], will ‘support the Department in the conduct of the review by providing detailed advice on the construction and content of the new National Curriculum.' Evidence from the public will be considered by the Expert Panel.

The Advisory Committee, which is chaired by Jon Coles (DfE) and is made up of head teachers, academics and representatives from Ofsted and the think tank Institute of Directors[iv], will support the DfE and the Expert Panel by drawing on their own ‘expertise and experience' and by ‘providing advice on strategic and cross-cutting issues that may arise from the review'.

Influencing the review

The review has issued a ‘call for evidence' (details tbc) that will allow interested members of the public to submit evidence between January and April 2011. This is the first phase of the review and evidence should therefore focus on the core knowledge that should be included in the English, mathematics, science and physical education curriculum and what other subjects should be part of the National Curriculum.

The DfE also states: ‘We will also be taking forward work with subject communities and other experts over the course of the review to build an evidence base on which recommendations and proposals will be built, and we will be working to engage with teachers and their representatives to secure their input. Once we have published our proposals there will be further wide-scale public consultation before final decisions are made.'[v]

Timetable

As published by the Department for Education.

Date Action
January 2011 Review launched
January 2011 Call for Evidence (phase one) begins
April 2011 Call for Evidence (phase one) ends
Early 2012 Public consultation on phase one recommendations (including new Programmes of Study for English, mathematics, science and physical education)
Early 2012 Call for Evidence (phase two) begins
Spring 2012 Ministers announce decisions on (1) the Programmes of Study for English, mathematics, science and physical education and (2) the other subjects to be included in the new National Curriculum
Spring 2012 Call for Evidence (phase two) ends
September 2012 New Programmes of Study for English, mathematics, science and physical education made available to schools
Early 2013 Public consultation on new Programmes of Study for all other subjects to be included in the National Curriculum
Spring 2013 Ministers announce decisions about the Programmes of Study for all other subjects to be included in the National Curriculum
September 2013 Teaching of the new Programmes of Study for English, mathematics, science and physical education becomes statutory
September 2013 New Programmes of Study for all other subjects included in the new National Curriculum are made available to schools
September 2014 Teaching of the new Programmes of Study for all other subjects to be included in the National Curriculum becomes statutory

[i] http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/nationalcurriculum/a0073091/review-of-the-national-curriculum-expert-panel-terms-of-reference

[ii] http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/nationalcurriculum/b0073043/remit-for-review-of-the-national-curriculum-in-england/

[iii] http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/e/expert%20panel%20pen%20portraits.pdf

[iv] http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/n/national%20curriculum%20review%20advisory%20committee.pdf

[v] http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/nationalcurriculum/a0061710/faqs-about-the-new-national-curriculum/#faq11

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