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11 June 2012
Commenting on the media reports today of the Government's review of the primary curriculum, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers' union, said:
"This coalition government came to office with a stated commitment to 'free' teachers from alleged central control and diktat and to allow them to make better use of their skills and expertise to meet the needs of learners.
"Today's reports about its intention to impose a highly prescriptive programme of study on teachers, with content defined in high degrees of detail, shows that far from liberating teachers, the coalition government is more interested in shackling their professional discretion to a far greater degree than any of its predecessors.
"While the coalition government has undertaken an apparently comprehensive consultation exercise with the teaching profession and other stakeholders on the form and content of the curriculum, it is now clear that this has been a largely cosmetic exercise.
"Long-standing, unevidenced Ministerial whims about what should and should not be in the curriculum appear to have won the day, regardless of the views expressed by others. This is wholly characteristic of the coalition government's contempt for meaningful consultation.
"On the issue of the recitation of poetry by children as young as five, what the coalition government appears to fail to mention is that this is already provided for in the current Key Stage 1 English programme of study. The coalition, therefore, seems to be looking to reintroduce a provision that already exists.
"When talking about the 'requirements' on schools in relation to the National Curriculum, it fails to mention that such requirements do not, of course, apply to academies and free schools. These schools are exempt from any obligation to follow the National Curriculum. What sort of 'national' curriculum is it that doesn't apply nationally?
"With regard to the requirements in relation to modern foreign languages (MFL) at Key Stage 2, it should be recognised that there are already non-statutory programmes of study for these. Most schools have already taken forward some very interesting and innovative work on the development of language skills and knowledge.
"It is also important to note that the last government commissioned Ron Dearing to look at language teaching in primary schools. He recommended that simply imposing a requirement to teach MFL on primary schools, without serious consideration being given to the manageability of this, particularly in relation to the support the workforce would require to deliver language teaching on a compulsory basis, would be inappropriate. However, this appears to be exactly what the Government is doing, further emphasising its aversion to evidence-based policy and its predilection to rely upon ideology and assertion to guide its actions."