03 SES 07 A, Curriculum Reform in Russia, Finland and England
This paper considers the distinctive trajectory to curriculum reform in England. Elsewhere, weakening traditional curriculum subject boundaries and changing how learning is organised in the classroom have been championed as necessary ways to reposition students as active learners, and equip them with the flexibility and resourcefulness required to navigate a rapidly changing and uncertain world (OECD, 2018). England has pursued a very different approach to curriculum reform. The current Conservative administration operate from what Bernstein describes as retrospective pedagogic identities: in imagining the future they have turned to an image of a more stable past (Bernstein, 1996, p 78). Disciplinary boundaries have been strengthened and discipline-focused examination requirements echo the secondary curriculum mandated in 1904 (Baker, 2017). In combination with detailed curriculum specification, the testing and accountability regime gives teachers less and less control over the pace and sequencing of the curriculum. Frequent testing is used to check on the pace of delivery on the assumption that: “The aim of education is to deliver a high-quality curriculum so that pupils know more and remember more.” (Ofsted, 2021) Delivery and learning are here conflated. The governance tools in play in the English system enable politicians to make these choices without consulting with the profession (Moss,2017). In the absence of consultation, central control has further tightened, over-emphasising the value of the test metrics used to assure system quality, while increasing the rate at which the centre sub-contracts to third parties those problems made visible in the metrics that it decides it cannot solve. COVID has exposed the fragilities of running an education system in this way. Not least because it has turned on its head some of the core assumptions underpinning such a test-driven curriculum delivery system. Stick with the curriculum delivery timetable written into the testing regime and learners have few hopes of catching up. Political solutions to this problem suggest repeating whole years, shortening holidays, or offering one to one tuition from outside the school. Yet none of this meets the acute needs that teachers have identified in their own local communities, or the strategies for recovery they favour (Moss et al, 2020). This in turn is producing a political crisis in education in England which has yet to fully play out. This paper assesses the possibilities of re-integrating learning and wellbeing into the responsibilities schools hold and strengthening deliberative discussion between stakeholders over how else education can run.
Baker, K (2017) On the state of the UK education system. The Manufacturer. https://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/lord-baker-on-the-state-of-uk-education-system/ Bernstein, B. (1996). Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity. London: Taylor & Francis Moss, G. (2017) Assessment, accountability and the literacy curriculum: reimagining the future in the light of the past. Literacy, 51(2), pp. 56–64 Moss, G., Allen, R., Bradbury, A., Duncan, S., Harmey, S., & Levy, R. (2020). Primary teachers’ experience of the COVID-19 lockdown – Eight key messages for policymakers going forward. London: UCL Institute of Education. https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10103669/1/Moss_DCDT%20Report%201%20Final.pdf OECD (2018) The Future of Education and Skills: Education 2030 Position Paper. http://www.oecd.org/education/2030-project/about/documents/E2030%20Position%20Paper%20(05.04.2018).pdf Ofsted (2021) What’s working well in remote education. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/whats-working-well-in-remote-education/whats-working-well-in-remote-education Simons, J., & Porter, N. (eds.) (2015). Knowledge and the Curriculum: A Collection of Essays to Accompany E. D. Hirsch’s Lecture at Policy Exchange. London: Policy Exchange
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